Randy Wittman saw it turning into the same game played two nights in a row, and not just because it featured the same two teams.
Following a 100-68 defeat on the road at Detroit on Friday that the Wizards coach had deemed "embarrassing," the Wizards duplicated their horrific effort over the first two quarters of Saturday's rematch with the Pistons at Verizon Center, which also eventually ended in a 96-87 loss.
Sensing the game spiraling out of control, Wittman forcefully argued a first quarter non-call when Emeka Okafor's fast break layup was rejected by Jason Maxiell. He was rewarded with a technical foul. He would've preferred to start his Christmas vacation early.
"Hell, I been tryin' to get thrown out for a while," Wittman said. "These guys won't even throw me out."
Forced to remain, Wittman watched his team try to salvage some pride after halftime. But a lead that had been as high as 22 points was too high to overcome, and the Wizards' seventh straight loss instead extended their franchise-worst start to 3-22.
"Right now, we're in a funk," said Jordan Crawford (game-high 21 points). "We got to get ourselves out of it. Everybody is kind of second-guessing themselves. We got to just get in the gym and work."
After apologizing for the performance in Detroit, Wittman altered his lineup for the third time in three games, this time inserting two first-choice players. Nene (10 points, seven points, five assists) started for the first time despite being limited in minutes, and Bradley Beal (14 points, five rebounds, four assists) told the coach he wanted to play despite a sore back from a nasty fall suffered two games prior.
The result, by the time of Wittman's tech at the 5:49 mark, was still a 1-for-15 start that included Nene missing five of his first six shots. Kevin Seraphin spun away from his defender but missed a wide open dunk. Okafor (14 points, 14 rebounds) slapped a rebound out to midcourt, but when Cartier Martin (10 points) dove out of bounds to save the ball, it landed in Brandon Knight's hands for an uncontested layup.
Only after Martin's two straight jumpers and Jan Vesely's surprising first pair of back-to-back free throws since April did the Wizards finish the quarter shooting 17 percent (4-for-23) and down, 22-13.
"Everybody in here need to be more pro," Nene said. "It doesn't matter the young guys, veteran, everybody need to play more hard, more pride, more together. You can't put in heart, you can't cheat that. They need to have the thing."
Vesely's night didn't improve as he was swatted by Andre Drummond then later fell asleep guarding Charlie Villanueva (19 points), who flew in behind him for an alley oop slam. The Pistons (9-21) hit three straight 3-pointers en route to a 54-35 halftime lead almost indistinguishable from their 53-34 advantage at the break the night before in Detroit.
Led by Crawford (six assists, three steals) and Beal, the Wizards cobbled together a 20-5 run in the third quarter and a 10-3 run in the fourth. They were answered by Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey (18 points, eight assists) as the Pistons dominated in second chance points (23-6).
But the search for reasons for the Wizards' continued struggle in easy to find in the box score. Reclining in a chair with his knees encased in ice, his feet submerged in icy water and his head leading on the side of his locker, the Brazilian veteran could admit only frustration.
"It's embarrassing," Nene said. "The last two games were embarrassing. No word better than that."