WASHINGTON — Given the way things have gone for the struggling Washington Wizards lately, it wasn't shocking when they squandered a 21-point second-half lead.
On the verge of dropping their seventh straight, however, their fortunes suddenly changed.
John Wall scored 22 points, Nene added 21 and the Wizards ended their skid with a 99-95 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.
"It's still great to get the win, but we have to do a better job of keeping our leads," Wall said. "It is more exciting to win than people being sad and trying to figure out how to get a win."
The Wizards, who had lost 11 of 13, also got 16 points and 17 rebounds from Marcin Gortat.
One night after turning in their worst shooting performance (32.3 percent) of the season, the Wizards shot 48.1 percent as they were boosted by the return of Paul Pierce (14 points), who missed two games with a bruised right knee, and Bradley Beal (right leg stress reaction) who missed eight.
"The offensive side of the floor is spaced because they're more concerned with our shooting abilities, and I think that opened the lane a little bit for the bigs to work down low," Beal said.
With the Wizards up by one, Beal made his first free throw with 10 seconds left, making it 97-95. He missed the second, but the rebound was batted out to Wall, who was fouled and made both shots with 7.3 seconds left and the Wizards held on.
"I can't explain it to you how we play one half and then as soon as a team makes any kind of run we stop playing," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "I have to figure out how to help these guys overcome that."
Greg Monroe had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Spencer Dinwiddie added 20 off the bench for Detroit, which has lost three straight.
"We play the scoreboard. We play the standings. If we're underdogs and desperate, we play great," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I don't know if its pressure when we're ahead and we can't handle it or what, but we don't play the same way when we are in front. That's got to change."
The Wizards led by 16 at halftime, and Pierce's 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run that put them up 69-48 with 8:58 left in the third quarter.
Detroit chipped away, however and trailed 80-70 to start the fourth. A 9-0 run got the Pistons within one, and when Dinwiddie rebounded his own miss and dunked, the Pistons led 85-84 with 6:46 left.
The Wizards regained the lead for good, 90-89, on two free throws by Gortat.
DINWIDDIE DOES IT
In 25 minutes off the bench, Dinwiddie hit eight of 14 shots and added eight assists.
"He was terrific," Van Gundy said. "He was playing too well (to take out). He was making a lot of plays and stayed on the attack. Outstanding game."
TAKING THE BLAME
Before the game, Wittman said he needed to do more to help the Wizards end their slump.
"First and foremost, I'm the leader of this group and I've got to do a better job," he said. "I'm not doing a good enough job of, you know, putting these guys in positions to succeed better, instilling confidence in these guys to go out and play."
Pistons: Lost the season series 2-1. ... Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who averaged 23 points in the first two meetings with Washington, was held to five points. ... Detroit fell to 5-10 in the second game of back-to-backs.
Wizards: Beal finished with eight points in 33 minutes. ... Kris Humphries (strained groin) missed his second straight game. ... Washington set a season high for first-quarter points with 37. ... Gortat has 10 or more rebounds in each of his last five games. ... The Wizards are 9-6 in the second game of back-to-backs.
Pistons: at New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Wizards: at Chicago on Tuesday night.