Without point guard Chauncey Billups, the Detroit Pistons will try to avoid matching their longest losing streak in nearly two years when they meet the New Orleans Hornets on Thursday in Oklahoma City.
The Pistons (18-11), who didn’t lose more than two in a row last season, have dropped their last three contests. They haven’t lost four straight since Jan. 18-24, 2005.
Billups, the team’s second-leading scorer who averages 18.0 points and 8.1 assists per game, strained a calf muscle in a 93-92 loss to Indiana on Friday.
Flip Murray stepped in for Billups Sunday and set season highs with 18 points and seven assists, but the the Pistons lost 108-101 at home to Phoenix.
“When you don’t have Chauncey, it puts a lot of stress on your other players,” Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. “I can’t fault our guys, they came out and played hard.”
Billups has been ruled out for this contest, while backup point guard Lindsey Hunter has missed the last 12 games with a sore right Achilles’.
“It’s feeling better today, but I don’t know,” Billups said Sunday. “I’m not going to play until I feel all the way right.”
One of the NBA’s better defensive teams, Detroit is allowing 117.3 points during the skid, which included a 151-145 triple overtime loss at New York on Dec. 27.
The Pistons haven’t shot well from 3-point range during the slide, making just 26.4 percent (14-for-53) of their attempts from beyond the arc. Rasheed Wallace, who’s made the second-most 3s on the team behind Billups, was 0-for-7 against Phoenix and the team went 1-for-15 from 3-point range.
“I couldn’t put a rock in the ocean,” said Wallace, who is 1-for-12 on 3s during the losing streak. “I’m not worried about it. You just go back and get them the next time.”
One bright spot for the Pistons has been Richard Hamilton, who is averaging 34.7 points in his last three games, well above his team-leading average of 22.4 a contest.
The Hornets (12-19) will play without their star point guard for a fifth straight game Thursday. Chris Paul, who averages a team-leading 18.4 points and 9.0 assists per game, is out at least a month with a sprained right ankle.
New Orleans fell to 1-3 without him with a 97-89 loss to Golden State Tuesday, the team’s 16th defeat in 20 games. Without Paul and other injured starters David West and Peja Stojakovic, the Hornets continue to look for offense.
New Orleans averages an NBA-low 90.2 points per game and has been scoring 88.3 a contest since Paul’s injury.
“We are not going to make excuses,” guard Devin Brown said. “You can say that, but at the same time guys know what their responsibilities are and they know that we are going to go hard every day.”
Rasual Butler, who is averaging a career-high 11.0 points a game, scored 30 Tuesday and is averaging 19.5 since Paul has been out.
New Orleans snapped a four-game losing streak to the Pistons with a 100-99 win on Nov. 15.