New-Look Pistons Beat Wizards 113-102 In Opener
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NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Greg Monroe had 24 points and 16 rebounds, and the new-look Detroit Pistons won their season opener in convincing fashion, beating the Washington Wizards 113-102 Wednesday night.
Andre Drummond added 12 points and eight rebounds for Detroit, which is hoping to snap a streak of four straight seasons without reaching the playoffs. The Pistons signed Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups in the offseason and added Brandon Jennings in a trade. Jennings did not play Wednesday — he’s been bothered by a wisdom tooth.
Trevor Ariza scored 28 points for the Wizards, who were outscored 56-28 in the paint.
Smith had 19 points for Detroit. Washington’s John Wall had 20 points and 11 assists, but went 8 of 21 from the field.
Detroit led 89-85 in the fourth when Kyle Singler pushed the lead to seven with a driving three-point play. Billups later made back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 100-87.
Washington is hoping to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but it may be awhile before the Wizards or Pistons really have a sense of how improved they are. Washington was without first-round draft pick Otto Porter, who has been out with a right hip flexor problem. Center Marcin Gortat, acquired from Phoenix in a trade last week, did not start and played only 17 minutes.
Jennings was out for Detroit with an impacted wisdom tooth and a hairline fracture on the mandible at the base of the tooth. Guard Rodney Stuckey also is injured. He broke his right thumb after catching it in a car door and needed surgery.
Billups started in his return to the Pistons and drew a huge cheer when he was the last player introduced in the pregame ceremony. Billups was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals with the Pistons, but he was traded four years later in a deal Detroit fans still look back on with regret.
The crowd began cheering in anticipation when Billups lined up a shot from the right wing early in the first quarter, and sure enough, the 3-pointer dropped in. He finished with 16 points.
Smith, Detroit’s prized free agent signing, had a quiet first half, scoring five points and taking three of his four shots from beyond the arc. Drummond, however, was a force inside. His highlights included two emphatic putback dunks, the second of which gave the Pistons a 45-33 lead. It was 55-43 at halftime.
Smith went right to work in the second half with a dunk, and after the Wizards cut the lead to six, Smith’s 3-pointer made it 68-59. Smith also was active around the basket on defense, blocking what looked like a dunk attempt by Gortat late in the third quarter.
Although there were pockets of empty seats in the upper level, there was more energy at the Palace than on almost any night last season. Pistons owner Tom Gores was seated courtside, and for one game at least, his revamped team gave fans reason for optimism.
NOTES: The Wizards went 7-34 on the road last season. … Gigi Datome, an Italian star who joined the Pistons this offseason, played only the last 19 seconds. … Detroit outscored Washington 32-8 in the paint in the first half.
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