It is hard to lose to the Washington Wizards. Only two of their 16 opponents so far this season have done so, and the Wizards entered Monday losers of their past nine games and holders of the worst defense in NBA history. Typically, a team with a No. 1 overall pick in his third season that just spent nearly $80 million on a coach would expect to defeat such an opponent.
The Detroit Pistons couldn’t do that on Monday. They didn’t even come close. Their 126-107 loss to Washington was the biggest win of the season for the Wizards. For the Pistons? It was just another night. Detroit has lost its last 14 games by an average of just under 12 points. Since the start of November they rank 27th in offense and 27th in defense. Cade Cunningham has played in all 14 losses.
We could sit here and explain, in depth, why the Pistons are so bad, but we’d be here for hours. We’ll give you the SparkNotes version in three quick sentences.
- Nobody on the team can shoot.
- Everyone on the team is young.
- Young players tend to be bad defenders.
The inability to shoot changes the entire geometry of the floor. In November, the Pistons rank 28th in 3-point percentage, 22nd in free-throw attempts and 29th in turnovers. Drivers are colliding with brick walls in the lane. Throw enough lottery picks at any roster and it eventually becomes decent. Right now? The Pistons are bad. Historically bad. A loss against the Lakers at home on Wednesday will extend the streak to 15 games, a new franchise record.
Here’s the scary part for the Pistons? This streak probably lives beyond Wednesday. In fact, their current schedule suggests it could go on for quite some time. Detroit’s next eight opponents are all .500 or better. Here are their next eight currently scheduled games:
First thing’s first: you likely noticed the nine-day gap between the third and fourth games on that list. Two extra games will fill in that blank. We just don’t know who their opponents will be because that will depend on In-Season Tournament results. If Monday’s loss to the Wizards proved anything, it’s that these Pistons are capable of losing to anybody anywhere.
Outside of a possible reprieve in those yet-to-be-scheduled games, there are no easy nights coming up. Those eight teams have a combined record of 81-53. Two of those eight games are the second night of a road back-to-back for Detroit, but none of them are on the second night of a back-to-back for the opponent. The Pistons will run through most of this slate at a rest disadvantage.
Do things get easier from there? A bit, but only briefly. A home date with the 5-11 Jazz is followed by two games against the 8-8 Nets. But after that? Detroit is right back at it with the league-best 13-4 Celtics. This is the NBA. The Pistons obviously could beat a superior opponent to end this streak. But their two victories this season have come against the 5-10 Hornets and the 5-13 Bulls, so the odds of it are relatively low.
For now, the Pistons are only halfway to NBA history. The league’s longest losing streak ever belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers who dropped 28 straight games, spanning the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. Cut it down to a single season and the record is still 26 games. The Pistons have a ways to go before they have to start worrying about numbers like that, but with the schedule in front of them, there’s a reasonable chance this becomes a legitimate worry. Nothing the Pistons are doing right now suggests an imminent turnaround. Because when you can’t beat the Wizards, it’s hard to believe you’re ready to beat anyone else.