Instead of entering the All-Star break with another road victory and a healthy winning streak, the Wizards watched a second half lead vanish because their offense disappeared.
Washington went the opening six minutes of the fourth quarter without a field goal and never could stop Detroit guard Jose Calderon from making 3-point field goals, falling on the road 96-85 to the Pistons on Wednesday.
Emeka Okafor had 20 points and nine rebounds, and John Wall finished with 16 points and nine assists for the Wizards (15-36), who went from having the NBA's second longest winning streak to being outscored 31-17 in the fourth quarter.
Washington had won four straight including Monday's victory at Milwaukee and appeared in good position for another by shooting 54.5 percent from the field through three quarters. Leading by eight in the third and 70-65 after Trevor Ariza sank two free throws starting the fourth, Washington did not score again until Nene's layup with 6:06 remaining.
At this point Detroit (21-33) only led 74-70, but the trend was headed the wrong thanks to careless ball handling. Several of Washington 17 turnovers came late in middle of the second half and the Wizards shot 26.7 percent (4 of 15) in the quarter.
Tied at 76, the Pistons went on a 11-0 run with a Calderon 3-pointer in the spurt. Acquired this month in as part of the Rudy Gay trade, Calderon made 6 of 9 from beyond the arc and finished with 24 points. Will Bynum scored 20 and Greg Monroe had 16 points and 18 rebounds for the Pistons, who have all three games this season and five straight overall against Washington.
"Disappointing, yeah," Wizards coach Randy Wittman told the media about losing the final pre All-Star game. "I thought that this was a game going into the fourth quarter ahead and these are the games we have been winning down the stretch, so yeah it is a little disappointing."
Detroit held a dominating 48-32 advantage on the glass and turned 14 offensive rebounds into 20 second-chance points.
Any playoff talk entering this game had a hint of padded room level crazy, yet because of the Wizards recent winning stretch and the layout of the upcoming games, it was worth exploring. Still might be in a few weeks. There just will not be the same boundless optimism over the next five days as there would have been had they brought this one in for a win as well.
"We are still doing a lot of good things leading into this," Wittman said. "We have to go into this break, recharge our batteries, and come out on Tuesday and end this thing in one game.”
*Washington hosts Toronto on Feb. 19, the first of three straight home games after the break.
*Speaking of disappearing, Okafor made 10 of 15 shots yet did not play in the entire fourth quarter and for no apparent reason. Wizards coach Randy Wittman went primarily with a Nene-Trevor Ariza-Chris Singleton front court.
*Speaking of disappeared, Detroit native Jordan Crawford did play at all for a third straight game. There are no enough minutes to go around and right now Crawford, along with Trevor Booker and Jan Vesely, are on the wrong end of that equation. Unless the Wizards post All-Star game offense mimics the fourth quarter in Detroit, not sure when Wittman unleashes the volume shooter again.
*Washington finished with five double-figure scorers as Ariza, Nene and Bradley Beal each scored 10. With only four rebounds, Nene's double-double streak ended at three games. Coming off the bench, Beal made 5 of 7 shots and scored 10 points in the first half, but missed all six of his attempts after halftime. The rookie again came off the bench, but look for him to reenter the starting lineup after the break.