Pistons facing NBA infamy, try to avoid record-tying 26th straight loss Saturday in Brooklyn

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Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) drives as Utah Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk (41) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, Dec. 21, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

NEW YORK – The Detroit Pistons were off to a promising start, a recent Coach of the Year leading a team that appeared full of hope.

Now they are on the verge of matching the most hopeless teams in NBA history.

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The Pistons have lost 25 straight games, needing a victory Saturday in Brooklyn to avoid equaling the longest losing streak within one season. They haven't won in almost two months.

The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers both dropped 26 in a row.

“That’s history that nobody wants to be a part of,” guard Cade Cunningham said.

“We’re trying to build something that’s sustainable. It’s not like we’re trying to just go out there and win one game. We want to win multiple games. But to be on the wrong side of history, I mean, nobody wants to be there, so that is definitely an extra edge that we have to have.”

It's been a rocket trip to rock bottom for the Pistons, who were a basket away from a 3-0 start in their first season under Monty Williams. They dropped their opener by one point at defending Eastern Conference champion Miami, then bounced back with consecutive victories.

The losing started on Oct. 30 and it hasn't stopped. Routed recently by Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the Pistons had a chance to pull out a victory at home Thursday against a short-handed Utah team, but committed 21 turnovers that led to 27 points in a 119-111 loss.

Williams, frustrated by the Pistons' carelessness that he said has been a season-long problem, was asked afterward about his team's mindset.

“You can just about imagine. You have these kinds of opportunities, you've lost 25 in a row, like, you’re probably not in a great mental state,” he said. “But again, what choice do you have but to fight and compete and dig your way out of it? But it’s human nature to feel like you know what and that’s where we are.”

The Cavs team that dropped 26 in a row was reeling after LeBron James had departed for Miami. The 76ers were early in their “Process” era, where trying to win was secondary to setting themselves up to earn high picks in future drafts.

But these Pistons are trying to win this season. Owner Tom Gores spent big to hire Williams, who took the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals in 2021 and was voted Coach of the Year the next season after leading the Suns to a franchise-best 64-18 record.

Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in 2021, was back after missing the final 70 games of the 2022-23 season with a stress fracture in his left leg to highlight a roster featuring five top-five picks in the last six drafts.

Maybe they are just too young, unable to execute what Williams wants. He vows to keep trying, though.

“We’ve got to show it, we’ve got to teach it, we’ve got to demand it, and it’s not going to change because we feel bad about it,” Williams said. “We’ve got to get to work.”

Perhaps they can capitalize on a tired Nets team that will be playing the second night of a back-to-back after hosting reigning NBA champion Denver on Friday. The Pistons host Brooklyn on Tuesday in their next game.

The Nets had their own taste of NBA misery, setting the record for most consecutive losses to start a season when they began 0-18 in the 2009-10, one of their final seasons in New Jersey. Philadelphia matched that in 2015-16 as part of its 28-straight losses over multiple seasons, the overall longest losing streak in league history.

Now it's the Pistons trying to escape NBA infamy.

“This is the hardest time for all of us in basketball, by far,” Cunningham said.


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