Commentary

PER Diem: Dec. 22, 2008

The Pistons and Lions have something in common: They both can't win on Sunday.

Updated: December 22, 2008, 8:36 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

Richard Hamilton and Allen IversonAllen Einstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesHamilton and Iverson didn't add much to Detroit's loss on Sunday. Rip got ejected; A.I. played bad D.

OK, this is getting ridiculous.

The Pistons once again lost on Sunday, this time 85-78 to the Hawks. They have yet to win on a Sunday this season in six tries, although for the first time, they kept the losing margin to single digits. In football, the Lions also lost, 42-7 to the Saints, marking their 14th straight defeat on a Sunday (they did lose one game on Thanksgiving). And, lest we forget, the Tigers lost their final four Sunday outings as well, including a doubleheader sweep by the White Sox on Sept. 14.

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If you're keeping track, Detroit's sports teams are 1-22 since Sept. 7. Only the Red Wings, 3-2 winners at Vancouver on Nov. 2 in their lone Sunday appearance, have been able to avoid the dreaded Detroit Sunday curse.

But the Pistons' case is the really perplexing one. The 2008 versions of the Lions and Tigers have been horrible at any point on the calendar, but Detroit's basketball team is 14-5 on the other six days of the week. Monday through Saturday, they've been good enough to beat the Lakers, Cavs and Spurs. On Sunday, they've been bad enough to suffer lopsided defeats to the Wolves and Knicks.

One gets the sense that Detroit coach Michael Curry has had enough. He called out Allen Iverson's shoddy defense after the game and noted A.I.'s tendency to be caught ball-watching, the outcome of which was six 3-pointers scored by Atlanta's Mike Bibby. This isn't news to anyone in Denver or Philadelphia, and in Detroit's nongambling defensive style, his play is a lot more problematic.

Curry also noted that Richard Hamilton had no business getting ejected in a six-point game with more than a minute left. The Pistons seem to be battling the refs as much as, or more than, their opponent, something that they're known to do. The difference is that now they aren't skilled enough to pull off a win after battling the refs.

Symbolic of that, and without the slightest hint of irony, the Detroit News posted the following notebook about the game. The first item is about Hamilton's protesting his ejection, the second item is about various Pistons whining about the free-throw disparity and the third item is about the team's complaints about Rasheed Wallace's two most recent technical fouls, which it hopes to have rescinded.

Anybody else notice a pattern here? It smacks of classic Pistons -- blaming everybody but themselves when things go wrong (although Iverson, to his credit, blamed himself for ball-watching as well). The only difference is that usually this doesn't happen until May.

Hamilton, for instance, was ejected the previous time the Pistons played on Sunday -- nothing new there. The free-throw disparity isn't notable, either -- Detroit is minus-2.8 per game for the season. And Wallace, even in the unlikely event that two of his 10 techs are rescinded, still will push for the league lead with eight -- he, Kendrick Perkins (nine) and Stephen Jackson (eight) are the only players who have racked up more than six.

Plenty of time remains this season, and Detroit certainly has enough depth and talent to recover from its rather mediocre start. But Sunday was a key loss -- Atlanta is now 3½ games ahead of Detroit for the No. 4 playoff seed and home-court advantage in the first round -- and the Pistons already have lost sight of the top three teams in the conference. Perhaps Curry's calling out his veterans will prove to be a turning point, but the Pistons have given little indication they're set for a U-turn.

And if you're wondering, the Pistons have 10 Sunday games left on their schedule … meaning they still could lose more times on Sunday than the Lions this season.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.