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Pistons Squeak By Wizards


A national television audience got a look at state-of-the-art offensive basketball Monday night when Washington played Detroit.

Sadly, it was state-of-the-art for the 1949-50 season.

The Pistons outscored the Wizards 16-11 in an ugly fourth quarter to post a 75-71 victory.

"I don't think that game will go down as one of the classic games ever shown on WTBS," Pistons coach Alvin Gentry said. "But I'll never complain about winning a game. We never got into any offensive sync. We just gutted this one out. The key was that we found a way to score enough points to win. Last year, we wouldn't have done that."

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  • Grant Hill had 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds to lead Detroit to its seventh win in eight games. The Wizards have just two wins in their last eight.

    "We were a little sluggish, and we didn't shoot the ball very well, but we were able to cut it up and get the win," Hill said. "I can't put my finger on exactly what we are doing. We are just closing games out down the stretch."

    Mitch Richmond led the Wizards with 22 points, while ex-Piston Otis Thorpe had nine points and 17 rebounds.

    "The game was ours in the fourth quarter, and we gave it away," Thorpe said. "We played good defensively, we just didn't execute offensively down the stretch."

    The Wizards held a 40-36 halftime lead, thanks mostly to Detroit's 36 percent shooting. The Pistons, though, used a 10-2 run for a 55-52 lead midway thrugh the third. Lindsey Hunter had six points and a key steal in the surge.

    Two jumpers by Richmond helped Washington regain the lead, and it took a 60-59 advantage into the fourth quarter.

    Both offenses froze up at the start of the final period, with Ben Wallace's free throw the only point of the first three minutes. In one stretch, Detroit's Jerry Stackhouse lost the ball on three straight possessions.

    Hunter finally got Detroit going with two free throws, tying the game at 61. Washington didn't get its first field goal of the quarter until Juwan Howard's jumper with 6:55 left, but that was enough to put the Wizards ahead 65-63.

    Washington held the Pistons scoreless for nearly four minutes, but could only move the lead to 69-65, and Detroit erased that on baskets by Hill and Loy Vaught.

    "We had control of the game at that point, and we just made too many unforced errors," Washington coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "We had too many possessions at the end where we didn't even get off a shot. We just got into a hurry and lost our offensive composure."

    Hunter stripped Jeff McInnis and hit two free throws to make it 71-69 with 2:09 left, and after Richmond missed a 3, Eric Montross hit a rare baseline jumper to boost the lead to four.

    Hunter said the key to his play was that McInnis was in the game, having started in place of injured Rod Strickland.

    "I forced Jeff to the baseline, and then I was able to make a play at the ball," he said. "I wouldn't have been able to take a gamble like that against Rod - he'll kill you. Jeff played pretty well, but he's not as offensive-minded as Rod."

    Calbert Cheaney's tip-in got Washington back to 73-71, and Vaught's miss gave the Wizards a chance to tie. But McInnis threw the ball away, and after Joe Dumars missed, Bison Dele got the offensive rebound and hit two free throws to ice the game.

    "Bison didn't have a great game, but when he needed him, he went to the line and hit two free throws for us," Gentry said. "That's how you win games like this one."

    Notes

    • Both teams were missing members of their starting lineup. Strickland didn't make the trip with a groin strain, while Pistons power forward Don Reid was a late scratch with a sprained ankle. McInnis replaced Strickland, while Vaught strted for Reid.
    • Dele continued to struggle. He came into the game averaging just 9.5 points, then went scoreless in 14 first-half minutes. He finished with four points.

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