WASHINGTON -- Surely there was no way this was happening again. The Washington Wizards, mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, were down 17 in the second quarter at home and showing no life whatsoever.
It was enough to make a coach start pacing the bench.
"I just walked down and said 'We're better than we're playing,"' coach Ed Tapscott said. "And, 'We need to bring more energy to everything we're doing.' You can't expect to walk between possessions, walk during timeouts, and then all of a sudden 'fire up.' We've just got to get ourselves moving."
So Tapscott turned to his subs, and they responded. Caron Butler's 33 points were supplemented by a season-high 16 from Juan Dixon and 15 from Darius Songaila as the Wizards rallied for a 107-94 victory Tuesday night over the redesigned lineup of the Detroit Pistons.
Songaila, Dixon (seven assists), Dominic McGuire (3-for-3, six points), Andray Blatche (eight points, five rebounds), and Nick Young (nine points) all provided inspired play off the bench, a necessity given that the Washington starters not named Butler combined to score only 15 points.
"Sometimes the five guys who come out and start can't do it by themselves," said Songaila, whose biggest play might have been a momentum-swinging backdoor layup when the Pistons were trying to make a late run. "And I think today was a perfect example of guys coming off the bench, bringing some energy, knocking down shots, making hustle plays. It was an opportunity for us and we took it."
The Wizards improved to 3-5 under interim coach Tapscott, while the Pistons have lost four of five and dropped to 7-9 since the trade for Allen Iverson. Iverson started at shooting guard Tuesday night but he wasn't much of a factor, scoring 13 points.
"It doesn't have anything to do with one player. It has to do with all of the players," Iverson said. "I don't think one player has to do with having a 17-point lead, and then it dissolves like that."
Richard Hamilton scored a season-high 29 points, Rasheed Wallace added 19, and new starting point guard Rodney Stuckey had 10 points and 11 assists for the Pistons. Hamilton and Wallace each were called for technicals for fussing at the refs.
"Right now, we're a team when things are not going good, we give in to it," coach Michael Curry said. "We unravel a little bit. We lose our composure. We can't be a team like that. We have to be mentally tough."
Curry's new lineup features Stuckey at the point, with Iverson moved to No. 2 guard, Hamilton moved to small forward, Tayshaun Prince moved to power forward and Wallace moved to center. Center Kwame Brown was demoted to the bench and didn't even play.
The moves were designed to jump-start a Pistons attack that had fallen to 22nd in the NBA in scoring. They appeared to pay immediate dividends, with Detroit racing to leads of 9-0 and 27-12. Wallace scored nine of the Pistons' first 11 points, followed by 14 of 16 from Hamilton, and the arena became as dormant as the Wizards' defense.
Washington trailed by 36-19 in the second quarter, but Butler and Songaila led a 15-3 run that cut the deficit to 46-43 at the half. Tapscott rewarded Songaila and Dixon by starting them in the second half in place of JaVale McGee and Dee Brown.
"Darius has a certain toughness to him," Tapscott said. "He sort of looks like a choir boy, and he's the nicest guy in the world, but put him between the lines and he bangs for as long as he's out there."
Playing center at 6-foot-9, Songaila scored six straight Wizards points during one stretch in the third quarter, and Dixon began an 11-0 run with a jumper. Blatche's putback dunk gave Washington its first lead of the game, and a 6-0 spurt at the end of the period put the Wizards ahead 74-68 headed into the fourth.
The Wizards have blown plenty of leads during their 4-15 start, but they didn't let the Pistons come closer than four points in the final period. Hamilton cut the lead to 92-88 with a jumper with 2:37 to play, but Songaila's layup steadied the Wizards.
"When we play with energy, we move the ball, all of a sudden we look like a different team," Tapscott said.
- Pistons F/C Antonio McDyess, who was re-signed by Detroit earlier in the day, played 25 minutes and scored nine points. He was traded to Denver in Iverson-Chauncey Billups trade and released by the Nuggets. "You could notice the difference without him. That was a big part of losing him in that trade," Curry said. "The things he brought to the table were sorely missed."
- The game was played with just two referees after Phil Robinson became sick.