So close. Again.
The Bucks fell to 2-4 on the young season after coming up short short in Detroit against the Pistons, losing 98-95. After the Pistons got out to an early first quarter lead, the Bucks were able to tighten up their defense that allowed them to make it an even game by halftime.
Detroit was able to stay ahead for most of that first half by knocking down threes and crashing the offensive glass, a common theme throughout the night. Brandon Jennings (15p/6a/4-6 from three) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (19p/5r/3-5 from three) kept Detroit clicking from the perimeter while Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Josh Smith combined for 12 offensive rebounds.
Though the Bucks played pretty solid defense for a majority of the night, their few mishaps were "capitalized upon" for the most part. Down the stretch, the Bucks would stifle the Piston's offense for 20 seconds of the shot clock, only to come up just short as Caron Butler (14p) would hit a long jumper or an errant shot would bounce right into the lap of an awaiting Pistons rebounder. It was just one of those nights.
In the disappointing defeat, there were definitely a handful of positives. A strong second half performance was keyed by the two 19-year-olds. Jabari Parker (18p/5r/3s) hasn't dialed it in yet from long range or the foul line, but he was aggressive in going to the rim, getting almost all of his points on dunks, including this one.
Parker also managed to be a little bit of a pest on the glass and on defense, most noticeably when he poked the ball away when hedging on a pick-and-roll. Parker cooled off significantly after his 10 point first quarter, but this was the biggest impact he's had on a game in his short pro career. Can't complain about that.
Giannis Antetokounmpo continued his confident play, highlighted by this vicious jam late in the fourth quarter. In addition to crazy dunks, Giannis demonstrated a desire to operate out of the high and low post, and also showed his versatility on defense, oftentimes using his length to swallow up driving opposing guards. He still hesitates to pull the trigger from the perimeter when the ball gets swung to him, but it's clear that he feels pretty good about the rest of his game. I imagine that shooting confidence isn't too far away.
There was once again good Brandon Knight and bad Brandon Knight, but he finished with another impressive stat line of 17p/9a/6r on only 11 shots. The mixed play leads to mixed results at the end of the game, and those will continue to lead to mixed feelings about Knight. There's no denying that he's improved, but the turnovers--of which he had five, one at a critical point near the very end--continue to serve as a reminder of how much work is still to be done. Knight paired with Kendall Marshall in the starting backcourt for the first time, with Marshall predictably deferring to Knight much of the time but moving the ball well when he had the opportunity (four assists and no turnovers in 21 minutes).
Jerryd Bayless also had an up-and-down game, but his nice finish off a Knight alley-oop is worth watching one or fifty more times.
Khris Middleton oddly didn't play at all against his former team (the odd man out with Marshall in), while Larry Sanders was curiously pulled with 3:45 remaining after picking up his fifth foul and didn't return. Sanders only had five boards in 25 minutes, but added three blocks, three steals and seven points on five shots while making Andre Drummond work for his 11/10 double-double (5/10 fg).
The Bucks will head home for their second back-to-back this week when they face the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow night. Milwaukee will go up against another fantastic frontcourt duo in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. It will be a tough finale to a long week, but--as has been common throughout this season--there should be plenty for Bucks fans to look forward to.
There's also $1 hot dogs tomorrow. That's cool, too.