MILWAUKEE -- Short story long, the Pistons were worse than the Bucks. That is not to discount the win, because Milwaukee has spent a good portion of the season not only losing to superior teams, but often simply playing worse than its opponent, and all of those many losses count.
So, twentieth time is the charm? Probably not. But with Luc Mbah a Moute (flu) joining Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, and Drew Gooden (remember him?) on the injury list, Scott Skiles trotted out a twentieth different starting lineup: Jennings/Salmons/Delfino/Sanders/Brockman. Sanders started less than a week removed from playing his first NBDL game, and Brockman started for the first time since November, coincidentally in a loss to the Pistons. Both started in good form, particularly Brockman.
But this was also about who finished in addition to who started. Particularly after comments by Brandon Jennings after the Bulls game and then pre-Pistons-game words from Scott Skiles in reference to Brandon's aforelinked comments. This game ended with Jennings on the court, all over the court, in the fourth quarter:
Jennings: I knew tonight he (Skiles) was going to challenge me tonight and see what I had.
Jennings played the final 6:39 of the game, scored six of the team's final eight points, made the game-sealing block, the game-sealing free throws, led the team in points, and gave us all a nice reminder of what he has.
Carlos Delfino. Sure, more than half (9) of his points (16) came on three-pointers, but this night re-established Carlitos as a multi-dimensional player. Delfino did just about everything in addition to making threes. He led everyone with a season-high 10 rebounds, including 2 offensive -- and this from a guy who played 16 straight games to start the season before grabbing his first offensive board. He tied for the team-lead with four assists, and he pocketed a steal in each of the four quarters. More of this.
Jon Brockman. Maybe Brockman digs this starting thing. Keyword: starting. Brockman positively wowed in the first eight minutes of the game before giving way to Earl Barron's debut with the Bucks. And he did well to start the second half as well, again scoring on a driving layup in the first couple minutes after halftime.
Brockman started with a spritely reverse layup to give the Bucks a 4-0 lead. He followed that with a couple dunks in the next few minutes, the most startling being a tomahawk jam (see him call for it?) highlighted in the vid below. Tonight was not just 26 minutes of dunks though -- in addition to the unusual, Brockman did many of the Usual Brockman Things: drawing charges, grabbing and tipping around offensive boards, and playing defense against taller humans.
Brandon Jennings. Much-needed bounceback game. The 8-19 shooting line will not quiet those who have noticed that Jennings has not made at least half of his shots in a single game in nearly three months (he shot 10-20 in a home win over the Magic on Dec. 4, though he also missed a month to injury), but there was a nice offensive mix tonight. Jennings made eight shots -- five of them were in the paint, two were three-pointers, and one was a jumper at the free throw line. He only attempted one long two-pointer, and that is just fine.
In all, 21/5/4 and one potentially game-sealing leap of a block on Will Bynum.
28. John Salmons has attempted 28 field goals overall in the last two games -- and he has not made one in the paint. Salmons shot 5-16 in the loss to Chicago but only attempted one shot at the rim in that game, and it was a miss. Tonight, Salmons made a very reasonable 6-12 from the field, but again, only two were in the paint, and he missed both of those. A real concern if this trend continues, because Salmons is at his craftiest and best when getting around the rim.
13-23. The Pistons were not much better at the free throw line (14-20), and Brandon Jennings knocked down a couple of game-clinchers at the stripe, but what an oddly bad night at the line for Milwaukee -- sans Andrew Bogut, no less. The Bucks made just 13-23, as Corey Maggette (4-8) and John Salmons (0-2) atypically struggled and Larry Sanders (0-2) mimicked Bogut as the replacement center, not only by blocking three shots but also missing both of his throws (and scoring two points in 30 minutes).
0-6. These days, Richard Hamilton only plays every month or so, and he only plays in Milwaukee. Last time, he burnt the Bucks with 15 points on 7-14 shooting in his first game in nearly a month. Now, nearly a month later, Hamilton burnt the Pistons by missing all six of his shots in the fourth quarter; he stumbled to a Bucksian 4-17 night overall.
Brockness. When the Bucks signed Jon Brockman over the summer, those of us who consider a vacation going to HoopData and 82games.com for an afternoon were pretty hyped about his 2009-10 NBA-leading 18.2 offensive rebound rate. However, that had dipped to 11.7 with the Bucks. Until tonight. Brockman hauled in seven offensive rebounds (to just one defensive rebound) in 26 minutes tonight, and generally showed off the qualities that endeared him to Sacramento fans last year.
Role reversal. Team leads narrowly going into fourth quarter at the Bradley Center. Team shoots 5-23 (.217) and scores 15 points in final quarter. Team racks up one assist in fourth quarter. Team loses in dispiriting fashion. Team is... not the Bucks.
1-0 in March. Hope springs eternal?
Neither up nor down. Not an ideal night for either those who want the Bucks to make the playoffs or land a lottery pick. The Pacers beat the Warriors and so the team remains 4.5 games behind Indiana for the final playoff spot. And Milwaukee's win over Detroit does no favors in the lottery situation, as the Bucks stretched 2.5 games in front of the Pistons.
Central point. The Bucks play in the worst division in basketball. And yet they had posted a 3-7 record against division foes entering tonight. They avoided falling to 0-3 against Detroit tonight, but it is probably too late to start taking advantage of the bonus games against the likes of Indiana, Detroit, and Cleveland -- all of whom they have suffered bad losses to previously.
FLuc. Of course Luc Mbah a Moute could not play tonight. The Prince was sick tonight -- Skiles was not forthcoming with details pregame oddly enough, but the box stated "flu-like symptoms" as the ailment -- after playing one of his finest all around games of the season in the loss to Chicago on Saturday. And so he joined fellow frontcourt mates Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, and Drew Gooden in the always-changing but never-empty list of infirmed.