Having locked up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons will likely be giving their reserves significant playing time again Friday night when they host a Wizards team trying to improve their playoff position.
Detroit has the luxury of coasting down the stretch after securing second place in the East with a 91-75 win over Miami on Sunday night. The Pistons have been giving their starters some rest in two games since, losing both.
Tayshaun Prince, Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace all played fewer than 30 minutes and scored in single digits for Detroit in a 101-94 loss to Philadelphia on Wednesday night. Chauncey Billups led all Pistons starters with 18 points and 29 minutes.
Six Detroit reserves played at least 16 minutes.
“We want to get out there and get a little rhythm, then get out of the way,” Billups said. “You try to walk (the young guys) through it, but the best lesson is to do it on your own.”
Richard Hamilton, meanwhile, is one starter the Pistons would like to see get more time on the court. The veteran guard has missed five straight games with a sore left hip, and will be a game-time decision.
Detroit would benefit by having Hamilton shake off any rust before the postseason. The Pistons have four regular-season games remaining, two of which are potential first-round playoff previews—versus Washington and Toronto.
The Wizards (41-37) are trying to catch fourth-place Cleveland to gain home-court advantage in the first round, but they could also fall as low as seventh. A seventh-place finish would pit them against the Pistons in the first round.
“A lot of teams are resting their starters because they’re in the playoffs,” Washington forward Antawn Jamison said. “But for us, I think we had too much rest throughout the season. It’s time to get the rotations down, get the chemistry down.”
Jamison provided a boost for the Wizards on Wednesday night as he returned after a two-game absence to lead them to a 109-95 win over Boston, the top seed in the East. Jamison, who was sitting out with a sprained right shoulder, had 27 points and 11 rebounds as Washington beat the Celtics for the third straight time.
The Wizards also have had Gilbert Arenas back for three games—all victories—after a 66-game absence due to knee surgery. Arenas had 13 points on 5-for-14 shooting in 24 minutes versus Boston. The flashy point guard is still tentative, twice passing up easy fast break layups to set up teammates.
“He’s coming off the bench. He’s still got to get his conditioning,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. “He won’t be Gil until next October.”
Wednesday was only the 10th time that Arenas, Jamison and Caron Butler have played together this season.
Washington has allowed an average of 92.3 points—nearly seven below its season average—during its three-game winning streak. The Wizards will be facing a Pistons team that ranks second in the league in scoring defense, allowing 90.4 points a contest.
Detroit and Washington have split two games this season.