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Detroit's Losing Streak Reaches 13, No End in Sight

Jan 12, 2010 – 6:15 AM
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Matt Watson

Matt Watson %BloggerTitle%

Jonas JerebkoFor the greater part of the last decade, the Detroit Pistons consistently ranked among the NBA's elite. Unfortunately, the team took a monumental step back last season, going from Eastern Conference finalists in 2008 to barely sneaking into the playoffs before being swept out of the first round in 2009.

The team stumbled out of the gate this season, but that was largely chalked up to injury after Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince both went down with injury within the first three games. On Dec. 12, riding the momentum of a five-game winning streak, the team looked like it had weathered the storm, sitting just a single game under .500 (11-12) and primed to make a run up the standings.

Instead, the team has yet to win a single game since. On Monday, the Pistons lost their 13th game in a row -- a 33-point blowout in Chicago -- dropping their record to 11-25 on the season.

After losing their 12th consecutive game on Sunday, the Pistons spoke about increasing their sense of urgency. But in the very next game, the Pistons gave a season-high 120 points while allowing the Bulls, who entered the game as the second-worst team in the league in terms of offensive efficiency, to shoot a scorching 57.1% from the field. The losing streak is the team's longest since 1994 -- and just one shy of matching the team's record.

To be fair, injuries are still ravaging this team. Tayshaun Prince, sidelined early in the year with a back injury, missed his 27th game of the year, this time with a knee injury. Ben Gordon, in and out of the lineup all year with an assortment of ailments, played only six minutes against his former team due to an injured groin. Will Bynum, a spark plug on both ends of the court, missed his sixth in a row with not one but two sprained ankles.

Charlie Villanueva But while the Pistons may be missing key components, there's no excusing the performance of the players who are on the court. Charlie Villanueva, a defensive sieve signed for his ability to make buckets, shot just 1-10 from the field for four points on Monday. Rodney Stuckey, who vowed before the game to lead an up-tempo attack, started hot with nine points in the first only to finish with two more the rest of the way.

Worse yet than any single players line in the box score has been the team's inability to slow down the opposition -- the Pistons now rank just 25th out of 30 in effective field-goal percentage allowed (.515), 19 spots lower than their No. 6 ranking a year ago.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Sadly, it doesn't look that way: much of their early-season "success" (relatively speaking, of course) came as a result of Ben Wallace's resurgence, which has subsequently slowed.

The proud veteran recently took responsibility for the team's poor play of late ("I got to do a better job of leading this team from start to finish," he said after loss No. 12. "I know what this team is capable of doing."), but the truth is that, at 35 years old, he exceeded expectations simply by making the rotation, let alone anchoring the starting lineup.

The rest of the team's big men -- Kwame Brown, Chris Wilcox, Jason Maxiell -- have been so inconsistent they're just as likely to collect yet another DNP-CD than they are a starting assignment. Rookie Jonas Jerebko has played power forward in a pinch but is looking more and more like a natural three. (In fact, with Wilcox at the four on Monday, Jerebko shifted back to small forward in place of Prince and was one of Detroit's lone bright spots, finishing with 15 points and nine boards.)

The Pistons have played so poorly there's no such thing as an "automatic win" on the schedule. Tuesday's game against the reeling Wizards (12-23) looks promising -- especially when you consider the Pistons already beat the Wiz once this season -- but the game is both on the road and the second-half of a back-to-back. As usual, Detroit's timing is off.

If the Pistons can't snap their streak in D.C., are they a threat to top New Jersey's streak of 18 losses earlier this season, or, gulp, threaten the NBA record (shared by the Grizzlies and Nuggets) of 23 losses in a row? Detroit will finish the month playing eight of their last nine at home, so you'd think they could stumble into at least one win before it comes to that ... right?

Given how the Pistons have regressed in their last few games, absolutely nothing can be taken for granted, especially as frustrations mount, trade rumors swirl and injuries continue to take their toll.
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