The Milwaukee Bucks (barely) got their first win of the new season on Saturday night, but they won’t have much time (or reason) to celebrate, as they roll into Detroit for an early Sunday evening tilt against the Pistons.
Jason Kidd’s club led for almost the entirety of their 110-108 win over the shorthanded Nets on Saturday, but it wasn’t until a buzzer-beating tip-in by John Henson that they could afford to exhale. Giannis Antetokounmpo was dunking everything in sight on his way to a 21-point, 11-rebound effort, but Rashad Vaughn was the night’s breakout star with a career-best 22 points on 6/12 shooting from deep.
There was no great secret to Vaughn’s success: he just took shots and, in contrast to the first 12 months of his Bucks tenure, they actually went in. Granted, it’s too early to tell if this is a one-game blip or an actual turning point for the 20-year-old, but if it is real it couldn’t come at a better time. Vaughn and Greg Monroe came off the bench to give the Bucks a needed shot in the arm against Brooklyn, and looking at the box score plus-minus it’s no secret which lineup combinations had the biggest success. Matthew Dellavedova, Vaughn, Giannis, Jabari, and Greg Monroe each finished +11 or better.
Overshadowed by Vaughn’s big night, Tony Snell started and scored seven points in his Bucks debut, missing all three of his triple attempts but hitting 3-of-4 inside the arc to finish with seven points in 21 minutes.
Worth watching for the Bucks is the center position, where Miles Plumlee has been mostly MIA since signing his (gulp) $52 million deal over the summer. Plumlee played well with the starters last spring, but his invisibility thus far has earned quick hooks (and just 16 total minutes) in each of the Bucks’ first two games. Reflective of Plumlee’s lack of involvement, Bucks’ P&R roll men have made just one basket through two games, tied for last in the league with the Grizzlies and triangle-heavy Knicks.
Though he hasn’t really gotten going offensively, Monroe has looked surprisingly frisky on the defensive end, while Henson deservedly closed out last night’s game and finished with seven points, 12 boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks. They’ll have their hands full tonight against Andre Drummond, with Monroe figuring to be extra motivated against his former team. If that translates into extra effort defensively that’s great; if it means forced shots and a 30% shooting night that could be an issue.
While Snell is now back from his sprained ankle, Jason Terry missed last night’s game due to personal reasons and is also listed as out tonight.
With Reggie Jackson (knee tendinitis) likely out until early December, the Pistons are mostly looking to hold things together over the first month of the season, with mixed results so far. Drummond battled foul trouble in an 18-point loss in Toronto to start the year, but they bounced back with an easy win over the winless Magic in their home opener on Friday night.
With Jackson out, Stan Van Gundy’s club is relying on former Bucks Ish Smith (11.0 ppg, 7.5 apg, 1.0 turnovers) and Beno Udrih (9.0 ppg, 3.5 apg, 0 turnovers) at the point, while former Buck/Buck tormenter Tobias Harris has led Detroit in scoring with 40 points through two games. Bucks preseason killer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has yet to get on track in Detroit’s first two games (4/14 shooting, 0/6 from three), and the Bucks will hope that starting an actual shooting guard (presumably Tony Snell) will net better results against KCP than the big wing lineup featuring Giannis, Jabari and Mirza Teletovic in Detroit two weeks ago.
Tactically, Harris and Morris are fairly interchangeable at the starting forward spots, so Parker and Antetokounmpo will likely matchup against each of them at times. Detroit tends to be very pick-and-roll heavy with Jackson, and so far they rank eighth in frequency of possessions finished by P&R ball-handlers (20%) and sixth in roll man frequency (8%), but middle-of-the-pack in efficiency on both.
Aside from Jackson, Reggie Bullock (back spasms) is also expected to be out.