With their eight-year playoff streak about to end, the Pistons hope to avoid an 11th straight loss when they visit the Hawks on Saturday night.
Riddled with injuries to some key players in the final weeks of a frustrating season, Detroit (23-52) will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2000-01 season. Making matters worse, the Pistons are mired in their longest losing stretch since dropping 13 in a row from Dec. 15-Jan. 11.
The Pistons haven’t won since a 101-87 victory over Washington - one of two teams worse than them in the Eastern Conference - on March 12.
Detroit allowed Phoenix to shoot 56.2 percent in a 109-94 home loss to the surging Suns on Friday. Opponents are shooting 53.7 percent and averaging 108.7 points during the Pistons’ 10-game skid.
“It’s been a disappointing season, no doubt about it,” said Ben Gordon(notes), who scored 21 points against the Suns but is averaging 13.1 during a frustrating first season with Detroit. “I just think, not only for myself but us as a team, we need to compete as hard as we can these last few games and try to go into the summer on a good note.”
The Pistons would have an easier time doing that if they can find enough bodies to take the court for the final few games of the season. Star Richard Hamilton(notes) (18.1 points per game) could miss his third straight game Saturday with an ankle injury, while forwards Jason Maxiell(notes) and Chris Wilcox(notes) remain day-to-day with back injuries.
“Anybody that’s got a uniform is going to play - has got to be ready to play,” coach John Kuester told the Pistons’ official Web site. “And that’s important.”
The Pistons, who have also lost 10 straight away from home, look to avoid a fourth consecutive loss at Atlanta. The Hawks (48-27) are 31-7 this season at Philips Arena, where they’ve won a season-high nine in a row.
Though Detroit beat Atlanta 94-88 on Nov. 29, Joe Johnson(notes) had 26 points and Josh Smith(notes) added 18 with 11 assists in the Hawks’ 112-99 home win that started the Pistons’ current winless stretch March 13.
Smith had 20 points Friday, but Atlanta shot 41.1 percent in a 93-88 loss at East-leading Cleveland. The Hawks were done in by a late 14-0 Cleveland run, losing for the fourth time in 12 contests.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” said Smith, who’s averaging 20.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.3 blocks in his last three games versus Detroit. “You don’t want to come close and not win. It’s a learning lesson. We have to be able to finish games with the best of them.”
Trying to hold on to the third seed in the East, Atlanta has not lost consecutive games since March 6-8.
The Pistons and Hawks conclude their season series Wednesday at Detroit.