By Howard Fendrich, AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – Washington Wizards point guard John Wall hardly took the high road when asked whether his slow start affected him the rest of the way in a seven-turnover, four-assist performance Wednesday night.
“I think it was great passes. I just think some of my teammates (didn’t) catch them, and some of them got tipped away,” Wall said, “so just got to deal with it.”
His coach, Randy Wittman, delivered a more direct, stinging criticism of various players — without naming names — after the Wizards lost to the Detroit Pistons 96-95. Brandon Knight returned from a right knee injury to score a career-high 32 points, Greg Monroe added 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Jose Calderon finished with 18 assists, as Detroit beat Washington for the sixth consecutive time and 14th time in 16 meetings.
“We got what we deserved. We didn’t deserve to win that game. … We were more caught up in ourselves as individuals than the team tonight. That’s the bottom line,” Wittman said.
“We got guys that hadn’t been in the rotation complaining. The older guys trying to help, and they won’t listen. And that just tells me, ‘I’m just worried about myself. I’m not worried about winning this game.’ You have a tough game, it’s my job to coach you,” he continued. “It’s bizarre to me. … They didn’t want to be coached. It was more about playing time, shots. Rather than, ‘What are we doing as a team and how am I playing while I’m out there?'”
Wednesday’s result represented a reversal of fortunes for both clubs: Detroit had lost three straight games; Washington had won three straight.
But the Wizards were without starting center Nene (sore right shoulder) and got a poor game from John Wall. It’s the third time in five games that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft had at least a half-dozen turnovers.
“He is going through a rough stretch,” Wittman said. “You’ve got to fight through it. You can’t succumb to it. You can’t feel sorry for yourself about it.”
Trevor Ariza led the Wizards with 22 points, and his 3 with 34.1 seconds left got Washington within 96-93.
On Detroit’s next possession, Ariza stole the ball and started heading the other way when he was fouled by Will Bynum. It was ruled a “clear path” foul, giving Washington two foul shots and the ball. Ariza went 2 for 2 at the line, making it 96-95 — and giving the Wizards a chance to win after trailing by as many as 16.
After some sloppy ball handling, the Wizards wound up getting a last-second heave from the corner by Ariza. It was an air ball.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity to win the game,” Ariza said. “We let this one slip through our hands.”
Knight missed those previous three Detroit losses, and was considered a game-time decision Wednesday. He was terrific, making 11 of 18 field-goal attempts, including 5 of 6 on 3-point tries.
“He’s a big part of what we do,” Monroe said, “so whenever he’s on the floor, guys do feel better.”
With Calderon orchestrating things, the Pistons opened the game by collecting assists on each of their first 16 field goals — the team’s highest such total in at least a decade, according to STATS LLC.
By the end of the first quarter, Calderon already was up to eight assists — one more than the Wizards’ entire roster — and Detroit led 28-24.
“Jose controlled the game,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said.
Without Wall for nearly the entire second quarter, Washington actually pulled out to a 55-51 edge at halftime. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft was unsteady when he was on the court, with five turnovers, two points and one assist in 11 minutes.
And then, on Washington’s first possession of the second half, Wall raised his turnover total to six, getting stripped by Jason Maxiell.
“He’s a player that’s learning how to play the game still. He’s still young,” Ariza said about Wall. “He’s still trying to improve and step into his leadership role.”
NOTES: The No. 3 overall pick this year, Bradley Beal, scored 16 points for Washington but went 0 for 5 on 3-pointers; his next make from beyond the arc will give him the franchise record for most by a rookie. … In the visiting locker room at his college’s home arena, former Georgetown player Monroe celebrated the Hoyas’ 79-78, double-OT win over Connecticut on Thursday night by repeatedly teasing Huskies-turned-Pistons Charlie Villanueva and Andre Drummond.
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