Even the worst NBA teams win the occasional game. Because basketball is such a volatile sport, the accidental victory is almost impossible to avoid. Occasionally, your opponents are going to miss shots, and some of your own might even go in. The worst NBA teams might go a week without winning a game. Maybe two. But a whole month? That's a rarity. Entering Thursday, it had happened only 12 times in NBA history.
Well, make it 13.
Joining the dubious winless month club are the Detroit Pistons, losers of 16 straight games, all of which took place in November. Detroit started the season 2-1 and won its last game on Oct. 28. The first loss of their streak came on Oct. 30, and then, in 15 tries, they lost 15 November games. Still, their last contest proved somewhat competitive. After getting waxed 133-107 by the Lakers on Wednesday, the Pistons turned around and fell behind by 16 against the Knicks Thursday. By halftime, however, Detroit had tied it, though the Pistons ultimately lost 118-112.
"I'm not into moral victories. I don't know where that came from, it doesn't make sense. But that was something that, that game, that output, that energy, production from our group is something that I'm proud of, and that's the kind of competitive edge that we have to play with every single night," coach Monty Williams said. Even if he doesn't believe in moral victories, they are the only ones that seem to be available to the Pistons right now.
In their winless month, the Pistons ranked 26th in the NBA in defense by allowing 120 points per 100 possessions, and they ranked 27th in offense by scoring just 107.9. Only the Spurs —who went 1-12 in November— managed a worse net rating at minus-13.4 points per 100 possessions.
The last team to go winless for an entire month was the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers, who amazingly managed to go winless in October, November and April of that season. The Pistons are fortunately a ways off of three winless months, but that doesn't mean their streak is likely to end in the immediate future. Aside from a home game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 6, their next six teams are against top Eastern Conference opponents: the Cavaliers, Magic, Pacers, 76ers (twice) and Bucks. It is entirely possible that this streak stretches beyond 20 games.
At that point, even moral victories start to look pretty good. The Pistons entered the season with play-in aspirations. Perhaps the return of Bojan Bogdanovic, a sorely-needed shooter, will help push them in the right direction. But for now, the Pistons are struggling in every way, and with such a brutal stretch in front of them, it might take awhile for things to get better.