CLEVELAND — Forget the NBA record, the Cavaliers are officially as bad as any team in any pro sport.
Cleveland’s losing streak reached 26, matching the 1976-77 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ record for consecutive incompetence on Wednesday night with a 103-94 loss to the Detroit Pistons, who were supposedly a beatable opponent for the bottom-dwelling Cavs.
Instead, Cleveland’s season slipped further into shame.
The Cavs (8-45) remain winless since Dec. 18 and have now dropped 36 of 37. Their next chance to end the unimaginable slide will be on Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. After that comes a home game against the road-winless Washington Wizards on Sunday.
Rodney Stuckey scored 22 to pace the Pistons, who didn’t want to be remembered as the team that let the Cavs get off the mat.
The Cavs and their fans had hoped this was the night the streak stopped.
Cleveland had played well in its previous four games, losing by a combined 21 points and actually came into the matchup favored to beat Detroit, which was playing its second straight after hosting the league-leading San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday.
But the Cavs fell into a 12-point hole at half, and although they pulled within three in the third, they fell apart early in the fourth. Only some late buckets in garbage time made the score respectable.
When the final horn sounded, Cleveland’s fans didn’t bother booing as the Cavs dropped their heads and walked dejectedly to the locker room.
“Well, one of these days,” one fan climbing the stairs mumbled as he left.
There had been so many encouraging signs lately. The Cavs fell 99-96 on Monday in Dallas, when they failed to execute in the closing seconds and set a new league record for consecutive losses over one and two seasons. Coach Byron Scott was heartened by his young team’s effort against the Mavericks, and with eight straight home games ahead, the time seemed right for Cleveland to get back in the win column.
After playing the Spurs, the Pistons were ready for the Cavs. They built an 11-point lead after three and never let Cleveland get going in the fourth.
Will Bynum scored 17 and Charlie Villanueva 13 for the Pistons, who played without guard Rip Hamilton. He sat out with a strained right groin.
Antawn Jamison scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half for Cleveland. J.J. Hickson scored 18 with 15 rebounds.
Down 55-43 after a flat first half, the Cavs came out inspired in the third quarter.
They went to Jamison, who scored just two points in the first half, early and he single-handedly brought them back by outscoring the Pistons 10-4 in the first 3:32 as Cleveland closed within 59-55. However, Detroit responded, carried an 81-70 lead into the fourth and took care of business — just like Cleveland’s previous 25 opponents.
As the losing streak has dragged on, Scott has received numerous encouraging phone calls and advice from friends around the league. The messages have all been positive.
“It’s good to hear their voices,” Scott said. “It’s usually, ‘Hang in there.’ It’s something I’m going to do anyway.”
Scott maintains he has no regrets about taking the Cleveland job, which he took not knowing if LeBron James would re-sign with the Cavs. After hearing him asked about the decision so many times lately, Scott’s wife, Anita, asked her husband if he laments coming to Cleveland.
“No,” he told her.
There’s help on the way for the Cavs. G Mo Williams (hip) and F Leon Powe (knee) will practice again on Thursday and could be playing in games before next week’s All-Star break. Scott will wait until Williams returns to action before deciding whether he’ll start or come off the bench. … Pistons coach John Kuester spent three playoff seasons as an assistant on Cleveland’s staff (2007-09) and is sorry to see the Cavs fall on hard times. “You never want to see any former organization you worked for go through what they have,” he said. “Their guys have played hard. That’s the important thing.”
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