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Pistons vs. Bucks Preview: Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond renew acquaintances in Milwaukee

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Bad news: the Bucks can't figure out how to play the game of basketball with any consistency.

Good news: they still have 69 games to set things right.

Fresh off a winless three-game road trip, the Bucks return home tonight to host the much-improved Detroit Pistons and big man/destroyer of worlds Andre Drummond, a game that will also be the first regular season meeting between Greg Monroe, Ersan Ilyasova and their former teams. The Pistons ran riot over the Bucks when these teams met at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in the preseason -- can the Bucks finally begin to turn things around tonight?

Bucks Update

Aside from some individual brilliance from Giannis Antetokounmpo on Thursday, it was mostly a week to forget as the Bucks lost by 15+ points in each game of an 0-3 road trip. Having already lost to the Celtics, Pacers, and Wizards (twice), the Bucks are beginning to dig themselves a hole in the standings, though the scarier part is that they've been even worse statistically than their 5-8 record would suggest. They have the point differential (-9.7 pts/100) of a 3-10 team, the 30th ranked defense in the league, and they're among the league's very worst teams when you adjust for their below average strength of schedule.

While a bad second half in Indiana saw their offensive rating fall from 11th to 21st, the real root of their struggles to date have been on the defensive end, where they've gone from elite to terrible (where have you gone, Zaza and Jared!?!). And there's no shortage of problem areas in that regard: they're last by a mile in defensive rebound rate, bottom five in both two point and three point percentage allowed, and 22nd in transition defense (14.7 pts) after ranking second a year ago (10.8). While the Bucks have shown some flashes of improved chemistry on that end, their consistency has been almost non-existent, allowing close games to turn into third quarter blowouts with alarming regularity.

Pistons Scouting Report

Though they've cooled off since a 5-1 start and  the Pistons still have plenty to feel good about at the moment. Andre Drummond has become the league's most monstrous paint presence (18.4 ppg and 17.8 rpg!), Reggie Jackson has suffered no letdown since signing an $85 million deal (20.4 ppg, 5.8 apg, good-for-him 53% true shooting), and the Pistons defense has leapt from 19th to a more Stan Van Gundy-like 6th in overall defensive rating. They're among the league's best rebounding teams on both ends, and they also have done well both forcing turnovers and taking care of the ball themselves.

Still, the Pistons have also lost five of seven while struggling to find consistent offense over the first month of the season, ranking 28th in offensive efficiency with just one player (our old friend Ersan Ilyasova at a red-hot 45.8%) making better than a third of their threes. Interestingly, they've also been in something of an offensive rebounding "slump" of late, with six straight games under their season average offensive rebound rate of 27.5%. A matchup with the worst defensive rebounding team in the league could be just what the doctor ordered on that front, especially after Drummond was held without an offensive rebound in Saturday 97-95 home loss to Washington.

The other big issue for the Pistons thus far? Depth. Long term injuries to guards (and fellow 2009 Bucks draft picks) Brandon Jennings (Achilles) and Jodie Meeks (foot) hasn't helped, though the guys who are around have also underwhelmed thus far. Former Spurs big Aron Baynes is the only Piston reserve shooting better than 41% from the field, with rookie Stanley Johnson hitting on just 39% of his shots and Anthny Tollier shooting a miserable 24.5%. Those struggles have been a big reason why SVG has had to play his starters big minutes -- only Ilyasova (25.8 mpg) is averaging fewer than 37 minutes so far. Not that Van Gundy is particularly happy about it.

"We can't play the starters that many minutes -- in fact we need to get their minutes down -- but we didn't have an option tonight," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Look at the plus/minus numbers, and (the starters) dominated the game, but our bench didn't do anything."

On the Pistons: Detroit Bad Boys | Piston Powered

2015/16 NBA Season
Milwaukee bucks.vc6d60d4
(5-8, 3-3 home)
vs.
Detroit pistons.v852aa2b
(7-6, 4-4 away)
November 23 2015
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI
7:00 CT
Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Michael Carter-Williams PG Reggie Jackson
Khris Middleton SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Giannis Antetokounmpo SF Marcus Morris
Jabari Parker PF Ersan Ilyasova
Greg Monroe C Andre Drummond
2014/15 Advanced Stats
92.0 (30th) Pace 95.6 (21st)
102.8 (21st) ORtg 100.7 (28th)
112.5 (30th) DRtg 100.1 (6th)