The Detroit Pistons are slumping at the wrong time.
Since going 11-1 from Jan. 31-Feb. 25, Detroit has lost three of four, including a 101-97 overtime defeat to Cleveland on Wednesday that trimmed the Pistons’ lead in the Central Division and Eastern Conference to two games over the Cavaliers.
Two days earlier, Detroit was blown out 111-93 by the Warriors. The Pistons have lost consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 15-17.
“We’re spotting teams too much early,” coach Flip Saunders said. “When you fight so much to get back, it can catch up to you.”
The Pistons led by nine in the fourth quarter Wednesday before letting the game get away. Despite going 35-for-44 from the free-throw line and setting a season high for attempts, Detroit made only two of its 13 3-point shots.
“We were up by nine, rolling, trying to control the game,” Pistons guard Chauncey Billups said. “We had some shots that we normally make that didn’t go.”
While forward Rasheed Wallace returned after missing three games with a sprained left foot, Detroit played without key reserve Lindsey Hunter, who was suspended 10 games by the NBA on Wednesday for taking phentermine, a banned substance normally used for weight loss.
Hunter had 20 points against the Warriors for his first 20-point game since Dec. 15, 2002. He’s eligible to return March 25 against Milwaukee.
“He’s been playing great as of late, offensively being aggressive, scoring the ball,” Billups said. “He’s going to be missed dearly.”
Anthony was certainly missed by his team as Denver lost 110-96 to Golden State on Wednesday, as the star forward didn’t play due to the birth of his first child. He stayed back in Denver, but could return to the lineup against the Pistons, who are starting a five-game road trip against Western Conference opponents.
Without Anthony, the Nuggets (29-30) struggled to score. They managed to take a 12-point second-quarter lead, but let it slip away.
Allen Iverson scored 35 points for Denver, but had only 11 after halftime.
“I thought we had a great game going until about the four-minute mark of the second quarter,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “They got back into the game, and in the second half, we never got into an offensive rhythm. We never got A.I. into the game like we did in the first half.”
DerMarr Johnson, who took Anthony’s place in the lineup, had a season-high 15 points and was the only other Denver player in double figures. The Nuggets shot 38.4 percent, their worst performance in 14 games.
Iverson had his highest point total since scoring 36 against Houston on Jan. 20, but wasn’t happy with his play.
“I didn’t finish like I did in the first half,” Iverson said. “I just struggled for whatever reason, at the wrong time of the game.”
The Nuggets have won their last two over the Pistons at the Pepsi Center, their only victories in the last 11 games against Detroit.
The teams play again March 26 at The Palace.