It wasn’t the Detroit Pistons’ top-ranked defense that caused the end of their eight-game winning streak—it was their offense.
The Pistons will have to bring a more potent attack when they visit another of the NBA’s top defensive teams, the San Antonio Spurs.
Detroit won by an average of nearly 22 points during its streak before falling to 12-2 since Feb. 23 with an 82-81 loss to the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday.
The Pistons, who averaged 91 points in the previous eight games, held an 81-80 lead in the closing seconds before Hornets center Jamaal Magloire hit an 11-foot jumper at the buzzer.
“We’ve won so many close games … and we were all confident, all positive that we were going to win,” said Richard Hamilton, who had a team-high 17 points. “We both hit big shots and they hit the biggest one at the end.”
Ben Wallace added 13 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks for the Pistons, who shot just 41.9 percent (31-for-74) from the field while allowing 80 points for the first time in nine games. The Pistons allow a league-low 84.6 points per game.
Detroit, 1-1 on a three-game road trip, lost a chance to match a franchise-best 26-15 road record achieved during the 1988-89 season. The Pistons are 22-16 with three away games remaining. They still have the third-best road record in the NBA after winning seven of their last nine away from the Palace of Auburn Hills.
After beating the Spurs 85-77 on Jan. 19, the Pistons are in position for their first season sweep of San Antonio since 1996-97. Detroit had been swept in the series in three straight seasons.
The Spurs, second in the NBA with 85.1 points allowed per game, also couldn’t get their offense going in Tuesday’s 86-81 road loss to the rival Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tim Duncan, in his second game in the starting lineup since returning from a left knee injury, led San Antonio with 26 points, but missed a pair of critical free throws that would’ve given the Spurs a two-point lead with 2:17 to play.
“I put this one on my shoulders,” Duncan said. “I had two or three opportunities at the end of the game to score. I just didn’t get it done.”
Duncan shot 12-for-23 from the floor, but the rest of the Spurs went just 23-for-63 to send San Antonio to its fourth straight road loss.
“We just couldn’t find someone to knock shots down,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “A lot of guys had tough nights shooting.”
The loss kept the second-place Spurs from pulling within two games of the first-place Timberwolves.
San Antonio, which has topped 100 points just once in its last 10 road games, is averaging 102.8 in its last five at home—all victories. The Spurs are 26-8 at SBC Center in 2003-04.
STANDINGS (through March 23): Pistons - 2nd place, 6 GB, Central Division. Spurs - 2nd place, 3 GB, Midwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Pistons - Hamilton, 17.8 ppg; Ben Wallace, 12.9 rpg; Billups, 5.6 apg. Spurs - Duncan, 23.0 ppg and 12.7 rpg; Parker, 5.5 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 19; Pistons, 85-77. At Detroit, Billups scored 13 of his 18 points in the final 3:17 to lift the Pistons to their franchise record-tying 13th straight win.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pistons - 22-16 on the road; Spurs - 26-8 at home.