Otto Porter had a crucial strip of Avery Bradley, John Wall blocked Reggie Jackson's potential tying runner, and the Wizards emerged with a 115-111 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
"We showed glimpses of when we were good, but if we don't pick up defensively on the road, we won't win any games," Wall said. "We got to figure out a way to get back to playing defense consistently."
Wall scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half and contributed 10 assists as the Wizards won despite giving back a 15-point fourth-quarter lead.
Porter scored 20 of his 28 points in the first half to keep his team alive after it allowed 65 points before the break.
"We can't come out and get down 10, 11 points the way we did and have to fight and claw back," said Washington's Bradley Beal, who added 25 points. "But it is a good sign that we're able to turn it around when coach jumps on our butt a little bit."
Jackson scored 21 points for Detroit, which gave back its own 12-point lead across the second and third quarters.
Bradley added 18 as part of seven Pistons in double figures on a night both teams shot above 49 percent from the floor. The Pistons lost the turnover battle 18-15, and shot only 20 free throws to the Wizards' 35.
"Turnovers and fouls, that was the game," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "If they're going to shoot that many more free throws than we are and we are going to turn the ball over that many times, it's going to be hard to win anywhere, but especially on the road."
The Pistons stormed back to tie it at 102, and it was 106-106 before the Wizards pulled away.
Beal drove the lane and converted a three-point play with 2:06 left, and then followed with a pull-up jumper to make it 113-108.
Bradley answered with a 3 from atop the arc, but then was stripped by Porter in the lane when he looked to have a clear path to a tying layup.
The Pistons had yet another chance denied when Wall soared to reject Jackson's runner. It was the All-Star point guard's second block of the game and the 326th of his career.
"It's just me playing defense," Wall explained. "I think I'm the best shot-blocking point guard in NBA history, so I'm trying to set records. Just trying to make a play."
Van Gundy used his team's trip to Washington to again voice his support for athletes who kneel during the national anthem and his opposition to President Donald Trump.
"I don't know what good can come out of anything the president has said," Van Gundy said. "As far as the athletes' protest, I hope people would pay attention to the issues that caused the protest in the first place and realize that we have problem disproportionately with police brutality towards men of color."
A QUICK EXIT
Andre Drummond had 10 of his 12 rebounds and all nine of his points by halftime, but fouled out late in the third quarter after picking up his fourth, fifth and sixth personals in a stretch of just 46 seconds.
Pistons: F Stanley Johnson (back) started after sitting out the team's morning shootaround. He hit his first two field goal attempts after going 0 for 13 in on Wednesday. ... Drummond outrebounded the Wizards 7-5 during the first quarter.
Wizards: F Jason Smith (right shoulder strain) was inactive but could return Monday, coach Scott Brooks said. ... C Marcin Gortat did not have a first-half rebound, but finished with six.
Pistons: Complete their first back-to-back game set of the season at New York on Saturday night.
Wizards: Begin a four-game Western Conference trip at Denver on Monday night.