AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- It's amazing that Wes Unseld was able to field a team, never mind stay in the game until the last few minutes against a team that has won two NBA titles in the past three seasons.
His Washington Bullets had left Harvey Grant and Ledell Eackles back home nursing injuries. His starting lineup consisted of rookie Larry Stewart (Coppin State) and Greg Foster flanking Pervis Ellison up front and recent free-agent signee David Wingate and Michael Adams in the backcourt.
In the end, the Detroit Pistons were able to hold off the Bullets, 85-79, last night before a sellout crowd of 21,454 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
"I still root for my old team," said ex-Bullet Darrell Walker, who was traded to the Pistons last summer. "I still think Wes is going to turn things around. But this was a game we had to win."
Thanks to some sparkling defense by Walker down the stretch, the Pistons overcame a nine-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to win their fourth straight game and hand the Bullets their fourth straight loss.
"I was trying to match my starting lineup with the strengths left on the bench," said Unseld. "It was basically just what we had available to us."
With Grant nursing tendinitis in his foot and Eackles struggling with a pulled groin muscle, Unseld didn't have many options.
The Bullets gave the Pistons a serious run before collapsing down the stretch. Washington jumped to a 7-2 lead, held a 41-40 halftime advantage and built a 66-57 margin after three quarters on the strength of some solid defense and Adams, who scored 23 points.
In the end, the Bullets didn't have enough talent to overcome Detroit's 74-47 edge in rebounding and the inspired play of Walker, Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas down the stretch.
"We were on our way to losing," said Walker. "Then Joe Dumars gave me that 'Let's go' look and we started to pick it up."
Dumars scored 12 of his 23 down the stretch, and Walker made some key defensive plays that seemed to inspire the Pistons.
"They say that Darrell is a lot like Vinnie Johnson," said Dumars, referring to the player Detroit cut to sign Walker. "They both make things happen but in different ways. Darrell got his hands on at least six balls and disrupted them offensively."
Two steals by Walker led to a couple of Pistons baskets to get things rolling. Dumars hit a jumper to give the Pistons an 80-78 lead with 2 minutes, 40 seconds to play.
Thomas wrapped things up with a driving layup with 58.5 seconds to play and the shot clock running out. The basket gave Detroit an 83-79 lead.
"That shot Isiah made at the end wasn't bad defense," said Unseld. "It was a good shot."
Thomas, who hasn't been shooting well lately, finished with 21 points. Mark Aguirre had 16 off the bench.