Detroit — The long losing season is finally over.
The Pistons struggled through the 72-game slate and finished with a tie for the second-fewest wins in a season in franchise history.
The numbers don’t matter as much as the product on the court, which has fans encouraged for the future. Sunday’s 120-107 loss to the Miami Heat at Little Caesars Arena wasn’t a clear sign of that optimism, but it can serve as a data point for where the Pistons will pick up next season, with a good summer of progress.
The loss is the fifth straight for the Pistons (20-52), their longest skid in a season that started what the front office hopes will be a big turnaround for the franchise, with some internal growth and development for the young core.
The loss also locks the Pistons into the second-worst record in the NBA, and they will be tied for the best odds (14%) of getting the No. 1 draft pick entering the lottery next month.
Saddiq Bey had 22 points, Josh Jackson added 17 points and Hamidou Diallo had 15 points for the Pistons, who finished 13-23 at home.
The outcome of the game wasn’t in doubt from midway in the first quarter, when the Heat jumped ahead, 20-9, and then steamed ahead, 32-13, at the end of the period. Nemanja Bjelica had 11 of his 21 points in the opening quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers in the first three minutes.
The Heat (40-32), who already had clinched the sixth seed in thee playoffs, had a 10-2 run, with 3-pointers by Bjelica and Duncan Robinson (Michigan) and a pair of baskets by Tyler Herro (16 points and 11 assists) and finished with a lay-in by K.Z. Okpala (17 points) and a 3-pointer by Gabe Vincent (15 points and 10 assists).
The Pistons had a 13-6 run early in the second quarter, but Precious Achiuwa (23 points and 10 rebounds) energized the Heat with seven straight points and after a dunk by Max Strus (20 points) and another basket by Achiuwa, the lead was up to 56-33 at the 4:30 mark.
The Heat had another run and finished the first half with a 69-47 advantage.
In the third quarter, the Pistons didn’t get much closer and the lead ballooned to 27 before they closed out the final minutes.