Some faces were defeated, others in shock. Some eyes peered down at the floor, others gazed into the abyss. The only noise heard was that of players taking off their shoes. The spirit of a young, vibrant Detroit Pistons basketball team heard just hours earlier was sucked out of each and everybody and now lying next to the dirty laundry in the locker room.
It was Nov. 1, and the respectable 2-2 Pistons — who had only lost to last year’s Eastern Conference champions, the Miami Heat, and the Oklahoma City Thunder, the current No. 2 seed in the Western Conference — were welcoming the Portland Trail Blazers. On that night, the Pistons had a commanding 15-point lead seconds into the third quarter. They had dominated in every facet. For yet another 24 minutes, the Pistons showed they were no longer in the same discussions as the NBA’s bottom-feeders. It appeared to be a great bounce-back response to the loss a few days earlier to the Thunder. Something a good team would do.
Then, in the snap of a finger, Detroit returned to a sunken place. It happened so suddenly. The Pistons turned the ball over 10 times in the game’s final 24 minutes. They converted on just two of their 13 3-point attempts, while allowing the Trail Blazers to make every other shot they put up. It was almost as if the Pistons were hypnotized to believe things were better, like waking up from a good dream. Instead, they found themselves right back into the nightmare that had kept them awake for the last year and some change.
“There was a shift in energy,” Pistons wing Ausar Thompson said after the game.
At that moment, the rookie had no way of knowing just how powerful those words would be.
Three straight losses turned into seven. That turned into 12. Then a franchise-record 15. So on and so on. Detroit proceeded to crumble in fourth quarters. The Pistons continued to turn the ball over at egregious rates in the beginning, middle, and end of ball games. The rebuilding team that had never learned to win at this level looked up and realized it was in a predicament you only see once every few years at that. This is “deer in the headlights” in human form. No one has answers because, well, they only know losing at this level.
The last time Detroit won a game, the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers was tied at a game apiece. Since then, United Auto Workers ended a month-long strike. Rep. George Santos was expelled from Congress and started doing Cameos.
The Pistons haven’t won a basketball game since Oct. 28. That’s 46 days, 20 straight games without walking away victorious. How does that happen?
Well, how much time do you have?