Perhaps it was because Arenas shot 0 for 6 in the first quarter. Or because he didn't make a fourth-quarter field goal until 1.9 seconds were left, too late to make a difference.
• The Pistons won their third straight and third straight over the Wizards, led by 29 points from Ben Gordon. Gordon has scored 20+ points in eight of nine games this season.
• Charlie Villanueva added 25 points, his third game with 25+ points in his last four.
• The Wizards dropped their sixth straight after a 2-1 start.
• Mike Miller led the Wizards with a season-high 20 points, while Gilbert Arenas added 19 points and a season-high 10 assists.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
Whatever the motivation, Arenas talked at length in the locker room about thinking instead of reacting; worrying how many assists he collects so he can be seen as a top point guard; figuring out how to involve talented teammates in new coach Flip Saunders' offense; having more fun on the court now that he's healthy.
"There's always a half or a quarter where I don't shoot or I don't score. Before, in [former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan's] system, he needed me to score 30. In this system, I don't have to," Arenas said. "Me sitting, not shooting for a whole quarter, doesn't really bother [me], because we have other players that's scoring. But then when I try to get in a rhythm, I just don't have that feel, so I have to try to find a way to keep myself in the game the whole time."
While he was quiet in the fourth quarter Saturday, Gordon took over, scoring eight of Detroit's final 10 points to finish with 29. Charlie Villanueva added 25 points for Detroit, which held Washington to one field goal over the final 5 minutes.
Reserve guard Will Bynum contributed 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Pistons, who have won three in a row.
Arenas set up a basket by Earl Boykins that put Washington ahead 95-89 with 5:04 to play -- but the Wizards wouldn't register another field goal until the closing seconds.
"The thing I like about this team is, we keep chipping away," Gordon said. "We don't hang our heads. We don't make excuses. We play hard, and that got us back in the game."
The Pistons trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, but with Arenas going silent for stretches, they came back.
"We're not known for our defense, but Ben [Wallace] and I have been playing terrific defense," Villanueva said. "We can score, but it's the other end that's going to put us in a good situation."
Back before three operations in 1½ years on his left knee, Arenas used to be the guy who would take over games late in quarters, and he showed some flashes Saturday: He sank a 3-pointer from about 30 feet right at the end of the first half, hopping in place as the ball cut through the net. And when he made back-to-back 3s at another point, he waved his palms in front of him, the old Hibachi signal that he was hot.
"Mike Miller told me to bring it back," said Arenas, who ended up with 19 points and 10 assists. "Everyone wants the fun guy back."
But Arenas also was deferential at times to the 5-foot-5 Boykins, who signed with Washington on Wednesday, went through two days of practice, and scored 20 points in his first NBA game since April 2008.
Arenas' first shot attempt of the fourth quarter was a 19-foot jumper that he missed with 2:05 left in the game and the score 96-all. Gordon banked in a 9-footer to put Detroit ahead, and then Boykins -- not Arenas -- missed jumpers on each of Washington's next two possessions.
Arenas said teammate DeShawn Stevenson "got mad at me today, because in the fourth quarter I only took three shots. He said, 'Before, this wouldn't have happened. You would have taken over the fourth quarter, even if you had to take every shot.' "
But Arenas said he doesn't "want to take away from the team."
It's part of a general feeling-out process he and his teammates and Saunders are going through right now. Things aren't easy at 2-7.
"I find myself doing more thinking than I am just reacting, off my instincts," Arenas said. "Players in this league, they react. I was a reactor. Now I find myself being a thinker."
Saunders said Wizards captain Antawn Jamison will play for the first time this season Wednesday against visiting Cleveland. ... Miller scored 20 points after missing the three previous games with a shoulder injury. ... F Tayshaun Prince (back injury) did not travel with the Pistons.