The Detroit Pistons suffered another agonizing loss on Wednesday night, falling to the Utah Jazz by a final score of 119-111. The loss extends the Pistons’ current losing streak to 25 consecutive games, leaving them just one loss away from tying the NBA record for the longest single-season losing streak.
As the defeats continue to pile up, frustration is boiling over in Detroit. Fans unleashed boos throughout the game and broke out in chants of “Sell the team!” directed at Pistons owner Tom Gores as yet another loss slipped away in the final minutes.
Back-and-Forth Battle Falls Short
The Pistons showed plenty of fight, keeping the game competitive against a Jazz team missing several key players due to injuries. Detroit led by as many as nine points in the first half before Utah surged back to take a 58-53 lead into halftime.
The two struggling teams continued trading baskets after the break. A seesaw third quarter ended with the Jazz clinging to an 87-86 advantage heading into the fourth.
Utah opened the final period with an 11-4 spurt, but the Pistons remained within striking distance. When rookie Jaden Ivey drilled a 3-pointer with 3:30 left, Detroit closed to within 110-108.
But Detroit couldn’t get the necessary stops down the stretch. Utah’s Kelly Olynyk took over offensively, scoring 10 of his season-high 22 points in the final 3:12 to keep the Jazz on top. His putback bucket with 9.6 seconds gave Utah a 117-111 cushion that iced the game.
“We couldn’t get stops and we couldn’t get rebounds late,” said Pistons head coach Monty Williams.
Ivey, Cunningham Lead Pistons Offense
Offensively, Detroit received plenty of scoring from its heralded backcourt duo of Ivey and second-year guard Cade Cunningham.
Ivey led the Pistons with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting while Cunningham wasn’t far behind with 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. But the rest of the Pistons’ roster failed to provide consistent scoring support.
No other Piston scored more than 14 points as Detroit’s offense cratered down the stretch with Cunningham and Ivey misfiring late.
“I didn’t do my part,” said a despondent Cunningham after the game. “I had a chance to tie it on that layup. I missed it. I let the team down.”
Cunningham wasn’t the only Piston taking the loss hard. Third-year forward Saddiq Bey called it “by far the toughest one for me” during his Detroit tenure.
One Loss from Infamous Record
The loss was Detroit’s eighth straight at home. It also leaves the team precariously close to having its name etched in the NBA record books for all the wrong reasons.
The longest single-season losing streak belongs to the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers who dropped 28 straight games across the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Detroit is now just one loss away from tying that ignominious record.
The Pistons’ next chance at a win comes Friday night at home against the San Antonio Spurs. While the Spurs have the second-worst record in the Western Conference, a Pistons victory is no sure thing with the way this streak has gone.
Detroit’s last victory came way back on November 23, well over a month ago. With blowout losses piling up and drama surrounding the coaching staff and front office, it’s fair to wonder if this team will ever get off the schneid.
When Will the Bleeding Stop?
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess when the Pistons will taste victory again. The roster obviously has talent – players like Cunningham, Ivey, Bey and center Isaiah Stewart have too much natural ability and upside to keep losing at this pace forever.
But Detroit’s defense has been historically awful during the streak, allowing over 122 points per game over this 25-game span. Until Williams can coax some stops from this young roster, celebrateable wins will likely remain hard to come by.
Making matters worse, Detroit’s schedule over the next week is brutal. Following the Spurs game, the Pistons play a home-and-home with the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics before hosting the conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks. All three opponents sit comfortably in playoff position.
If Detroit drops all three, it will claim the record for consecutive losses by itself at 28 games. Pushing the streak to 29 losses would also make this the longest losing slide over multiple seasons, surpassing those woeful 76ers teams.
Could Historic Losing Lead to Change?
Fair or not, continued losing could spell trouble for Williams’ job security as head coach. Rumors are already swirling about Detroit’s front office exploring coaching replacements given the team’s lack of competitiveness and progress this year.
That speculation will only increase if the Pistons set a new standard for NBA futility over the next week. Williams has earned praise for his player development and leadership skills during previous stops with New Orleans and Phoenix. But this streak is threatening his reputation.
Frustrated Pistons fans are hungry for accountability. Team owner Tom Gores is undoubtedly feeling the pressure as well with fans openly revolting Wednesday night.
Gores has enjoyed success and popularity during his 11 seasons owning the Pistons. He played a key role in getting a new downtown arena built and paid out big money to retain top executives like general manager Troy Weaver.
But this losing streak has tested his supporters’ patience. If things bottom out with a new NBA record for losses, Gores may have no choice but to push for changes within the front office or coaching staff.
Whether it’s Williams or Weaver potentially on the hot seat, nobody in Detroit’s leadership ranks is safe if things don’t turn around quickly. In the unforgiving business of pro sports, it is easier to change out coaches and executives than overhaul an entire roster.
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Though the present is gloomy for the boys in motor city, there remains hope for a brighter future ahead. Cunningham looks like a true franchise cornerstone entering just his second NBA season at age 21. Ivey appears to be an excellent running mate in the backcourt who can grow alongside Cunningham.
Other youngsters like Bey, Stewart and rookie Jalen Duren have intriguing talent that could blossom over time. Weaver also did well to land extra first-round draft picks in his trade dealings that give Detroit ammunition to add more high-end prospects.
So while the losses continue piling up this year at an alarming rate, the makings of a solid core are evident on this roster. Player development and organic growth should ease the bleeding eventually, even if rock bottom still lies ahead in the short term.
It may require even more patience, but Detroit still believes happy days lie ahead. For the beleaguered fanbase’s sake, that turnaround can’t come soon enough with a historically bad season now ongoing. The possums in the arena rafters may be the only ones enjoying the way things are trending lately.
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