Daniel Gafford beats the buzzer as Wizards edge NBA-worst Pistons


DETROIT — May good fortune shine upon whoever tries to make sense of these Washington Wizards. They’re not making it easy.

Two days after playing the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks hard at Capital One Arena but falling a few points short, the Wizards visited Detroit on Tuesday night to face the team at the opposite end of the standings — and escaped with a 119-117 win over the Pistons that required a putback layup from Daniel Gafford at the buzzer after Bradley Beal airballed a floater.

This game was messy from start to finish.

The Pistons, who shut down star Cade Cunningham in December to focus on building for the future, opened with a group that featured one player, Jaden Ivey, who had made more than 15 starts this season. Yet as Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said pregame, these Pistons (15-51) play hard.

Fifteen turnovers kept the Wizards (31-34) from building a lead for three quarters, as has too often been the case lately. But the Wizards were mostly healthy after Kyle Kuzma returned after missing Sunday’s game with knee soreness; they just played with a lack of energy that let the inexperienced Pistons play confident, balanced basketball without a hint of fear or intimidation. The Wizards’ transition defense allowed the youngsters to run the court freely and shoot 51.2 percent. Detroit had 16 second-chance points on 10 offensive rebounds.

The behind-the-scenes team that keeps Wizards players happy and safe

When it appeared Washington finally had things under control with a 103-95 lead almost midway through the fourth quarter, Detroit bit back with two quick three-pointers, and Deni Avdija and Kristaps Porzingis committed their fourth fouls shortly after. Avdija sat, and the Wizards limped to the finish line.

Ivey forced Porzingis to foul out with 50.1 seconds to play — Gafford entered in his place — and hit both of his free throws, which Beal answered with a layup to tie it at 117. Kuzma then blocked Isaiah Livers before Beal missed his floater and Gafford clinched the win, roaring afterward.

Beal led the way with 32 points to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Porzingis added 24 points; Kuzma, a Michigan native, had 23. Ivey led Detroit with 26 points and 12 assists.

Here’s what else you need to know about the Wizards’ win:

Michigan native Monte Morris missed his sixth straight game with lower-back soreness, but Unseld said he continues to progress. The point guard had a good workout Monday, and the team wanted to monitor his body’s response.

Morris has only played one-on-one, but Unseld said he won’t be required to go through every step of a ramp-up — playing two-on-two, then three-on-three — before returning because of the nature of his injury.

Last time out: NBA-best Bucks keep the Wizards at bay thanks to 22 three-pointers

The NBA on Monday revoked Giannis Antetokounmpo’s triple-double against the Wizards on Sunday after a review of his final rebound, which the Milwaukee big man collected after he intentionally threw the ball into the bottom of the rim.

The NBA reviews all stats after every game and often makes adjustments. Antetokounmpo officially finished with 23 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds.

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