Pistons (9-5, 4-4 road, 3rd East) @ Bucks (7-7, 6-1 home, 6th East)
Bucks Stats: Offense 13th (103.1 pts/100 poss), Defense 25th (106.2), Pace 25th (92.8), Rebounding 10th (.510 rr)
Pistons Stats: Offense 6th (107.1), Defense 10th (100.2), Pace 28th (92.0), Rebounding 14th(.506 rr)
Bucks Injuries: Mike Ruffin is out 2-3 weeks with a fractured wrist.
Pistons Injuries: Rodney Stuckey has not played yet this season due to a broken hand.
06/07 Series: Pistons 3-1. The Bucks won their only division game on opening night in Detroit, 105-97. The Pistons won the second game at the Palace 96-86 on February 20 despite 21/13 from Bogut. Detroit then took both games in Milwaukee, winning 84-83 on Februay 20 thanks to a last-second miss in the paint from Mo Williams. The Pistons then blew the Bucks out 121-95 on March 25.
- The Pistons are coming off a 109-74 laugher over the Cavs in Detroit, though LeBron James missed the second half with a finger injury.
- The Bucks meanwhile have lost three in a row, all against sub-.500 teams in the East, and are facing a five game West Coast trip after this game. In other words, the Bucks could desperately use a win.
- If you want a great example of team basketball, look no further than the Pistons. No one averages more than Rip Hamilton's modest 17.3 ppg, but they share the ball and don't give it away, leading the league with a 1.99 assist/to ratio. That comes in stark contrast to the Bucks' 12 assist, 12 turnover performance in New York last night, where the last six minutes featured the Bucks simply handing off to Mike Redd for off balance jumpers. It's not altogether surprising that Redd might fall into the trap of playing one-man basketball after a promising start to the season, so it's up to him as the team's leader to make sure that his teammates are more involved tonight.
- Billups' $60 million contract hasn't done anything to hurt his game. He's once again been the model of efficiency, scoring 16.3 ppg along with 7.8 apg and a microscopic 2.1 turnovers per game. I've always looked at Billups as a guy Mo Williams could model his game after a bit, as both have the skills to be a distributor who can also pick up the scoring slack when needed. Mo's defense has gotten better, but he also needs to take care of the ball better (3.3 to/game) and get to the line more if he's ever going to reach Billups' level. While Billups gets about five free throws per game (and over six each of the last two years), Mo is averaging less than two free throw attempts per game this season.
- Ben Wallace might be gone, but the Pistons have pretty good depth at the big men spots. Rasheed has slid over to center with Antonio McDyess capably managing the 4 spot, while Jason Maxiell, Nazr Mohammed and Amir Johnson all bring energy off the bench. Maxiell can be a ton down low despite his lack of height (6'7") so if he gets matched up with Yi it will be interesting to watch. The 20-year old Johnson hasn't played much this year but has all the tools to be a star. Johnson had his breakout game as a pro in the penultimate game of the 05/06 season in Milwaukee, scoring 18 in 18 minutes. Cheik Samb is another interesting young big. He's barely played this year, but I happened to see him play against the Lakers and he's got incredible length and shot-blocking potential. He's listed at 7'1", 195 pounds, which has to make him the lightest seven footer in the NBA.
- Bogut didn't put up big numbers in yesterday's loss, but don't let that fool you. He made 5/6 fg and was generally underutilized by the Bucks' guards on offense after picking up some early foul trouble. More importantly he had nine rebounds and three huge blocks in the fourth quarter. Now averaging 2.3 bpg for the season, Bogut has defied expectations to become a guy that teams have to think about when they're taking it to the hoop.
- The Bucks are now 1-3 in the front end of back-to-backs, but 2-1 on the second night.
- Head over to Need4Sheed and Detroit Bad Boys for more on the Pistons.