LANDOVER -- Michael Adams, the team's leading scorer and playmaker, returned to action before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at the Capital Centre last night, but that was hardly enough to end the Washington Bullets' tailspin, as they lost their fourth straight, to the Detroit Pistons, 105-94.
Adams, the Bullets' leading scorer, had missed three of the past four games with an injured middle finger on his left hand.
The Bullets kept it close for three quarters, trailing 79-71. But the Pistons quickly moved out to an 87-73 lead and then applied greater defensive pressure to coast home.
Joe Dumars led Detroit with 32 points, and backcourt mate Isiah Thomas added 20. Harvey Grant led the Bullets with 25 points.
Grant kept the Bullets in contention by hitting his first three shots in the second half. But Bill Laimbeer countered with seven points to help the Pistons to a 60-52 lead.
Then it was Thomas' turn. The Pistons playmaker made two acrobatic layups. Mark Aguirre and Laimbeer picked up their fourth personals, but Aguirre stayed in the game and made a baseline drive to increase the lead to 70-60.
Adams scored five straight. Just as quickly, a pair of free throws by Dumars and a three-pointer by Thomas boosted the Pistons advantage to 75-65.
With Detroit leading 77-67, Aguirre was forced to the bench with his fifth foul. The third quarter ended with the Pistons leading, 79-71.
The Bullets defense came apart in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Orlando Woolridge and second-year forward Bob McCann broke loose for dunks to give Detroit an 87-73 cushion with nine minutes left.
Washington had trouble getting a high-percentage shot against the Pistons' aggressive defense. In the meantime, Dumars and Woolridge combined to give Detroit a 100-83 lead with four minutes remaining.
Adams, playing with a taped hand, made his first two field goals, as Washington jumped out to a 14-5 lead. After almost five minutes, the Pistons had managed only a pair of field goals.
When Charles Jones picked up his second foul, Bullets coach Wes Unseld was forced to go with a front line of three forwards -- Larry Stewart, Grant and Tom Hammonds.
Woolridge came off the Detroit bench to score six points and trim the margin to 20-13. The Pistons were penetrating the middle, with the Bullets slow to rotate their defense.
After Dumars pulled the visitors to within a basket, Hammonds was called for a flagrant foul on a driving Darrell Walker. The former Bullet made both free throws to tie it at 25 and the Pistons retained possession.
Two free throws by Dumars gave Detroit a 27-25 edge after one quarter. Dumars and Woolridge each had 10 points.
DTC The Pistons began finding the range from outside. Even Dennis Rodman hit a three-pointer to pad the margin to 36-29. The Bullets closed to 38-35 after Aguirre was charged with a technical for disputing a call.
It was 40-39 when Thomas made two straight jumpers. The tempo slowed considerably as neither team could score in transition. Two push shots by Greg Foster and a three-point play by Wingate made it 47-46, but Woolridge's layup left Detroit with a 49-46 halftime edge.
Unseld received good and bad news about his injury-depleted Bullets before the game.
He welcomed back Adams and Hammonds, sidelined since Nov. 19 with a severe groin pull. Rookie guard LaBradford Smith, still nursing a sore ankle, replaced Hammonds on the injured list.
Center Pervis Ellison, the team's top rebounder and leading scorer, tested his sore right knee in a pre-game warm-up and determined he was not ready to play. Ellison injured the knee Sunday in a collision with Portland forward Jerome Kersey and sat out the next two games in Seattle and Utah. Unseld started Jones in place of Ellison.
Pistons coach Chuck Daly decided to change his lineup after losing eight of the past 11 games. Laimbeer returned to his starting role at center, replacing William Bedford.