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By the Numbers: Pistons on cusp of NBA's longest losing streak

Bojan Bogdanovic Cade Cunningham Detroit Pistons Bojan Bogdanovic Cade Cunningham - The Canadian Press

The Detroit Pistons finally looked like they were going to win a game Thursday night.

They led the Celtics in Boston – the team with the best record in the NBA and a perfect 14-0 at TD Garden – 66-47 at halftime and at one point built their first 20-point lead of the season.

And then it all came crashing down.

The Celtics went on a 19-5 run to open the third quarter, cutting the Pistons’ lead to just one point with 4:40 to go. Boston took a six-point lead with two minutes to go but couldn’t close it out as the Pistons scored six straight to even things up and send the game to overtime for the first time in two months since their last victory.

The extra frame belonged to the Celtics as they outscored Detroit 20-14 in OT to win their fourth straight and improve to a league best 24-6. Meanwhile, the Pistons dropped to 2-29, and remain mired in one of the longest losing streaks ever in North American sports at 28 straight defeats. Monty Williams and Co. have not won a game since starting the season 2-1 back on Oct. 28.

"I just told them that it takes a lot of character and integrity to do what they're doing," the Pistons’ head coach said Thursday. "I've been in the league for a while, and I've seen teams give into circumstances that are less than what we're dealing with. That was admirable; obviously, we had a tough third quarter, and the ability to fight back and have it even in the fourth was tremendous.

"I hurt for them. We feel like we're just getting so close to not just winning one game but winning a lot of games if we play that way." 

Thursday’s defeat pulled Detroit even with the “trust the process” Philadelphia 76ers for the most consecutive losses in NBA history, accomplished – if that’s even the right word – between the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons when 2014 No. 3 overall pick Joel Embiid was sidelined for two consecutive seasons with a foot injury.

The Pistons are next in action Saturday as hosts to the Toronto Raptors where they’ll need to win to avoid setting the NBA record for most losses in a row.

Watch Saturday’s game LIVE at 6:00pm ET/3:00pm PT on TSN3, TSN4, and the TSN App.

The Pistons already set the NBA record for the most consecutive losses in a season with a defeat at the hands of the Brooklyn Nets early this week, their 27th in a row. In major North American men’s sports, only the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals have had a longer losing streak, with them dropping 29 straight between 1942 and 1945.

The Pistons are well on their way to their worst season in franchise history, carrying a winning percentage of just .065 into the weekend. They need 14 wins in the season’s final 51 games to catch the 1979-80 Pistons, who have the franchise’s record for futility in both games won (16) and winning percentage (.195). At 17-65, the 2022-23 Pistons weren’t much better.

Unless they start winning, the Pistons might continue to make NBA history. The Charlotte Bobcats are the worst team in NBA history as measured by winning percentage, going 7-59 for a mark of .106 during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. The most losses in a single season belong to the 1972-73 76ers, who finished 9-73. If the Pistons keep playing the way they’re playing, both the winning percentage record and losses record are well within reach.

The Pistons also have an opportunity to turn things around the way their schedule looks. The Raptors head into the weekend at 12-18 and have gone just 4-9 on the road this season. After that, Detroit begins a four-game road trip that sees them take on the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets. The Warriors and Nuggets should prove tough, but neither the Jazz (13-19) nor Rockets (15-14) have been particularly consistent so far this season.

Either way, star guard Cade Cunningham insists snapping the streak isn’t all the Pistons are focused on at the moment.

“Our goals are a lot higher than that. We have what it takes to win a game, that’s nothing. But to put games together, to find our system, find what’s clicking and allow us to sustain winning. That’s all we’re looking for," he said.