Milwaukee bungled its way through the nation’s capitol on Monday night for the second time this season, coughing up a late lead in the fourth quarter to lose to the Washington Wizards 107-102. For its part, Detroit was reeling of late but snapped a five-game losing streak on Monday with a win against the Lebron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers, 106-90.
After one of its most impressive performances of the season on Friday against Washington at the BMO with a 123-96 win, Milwaukee coughed up a win, letting the Wizards close the contest out on a 21-6 run. The Bucks’ sputtering offense late in games is a recurring theme so far this season, and it’s cost them two games against a prime competitor for an Eastern Conference playing spot.
Giannis managed 22 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, but Jabari Parker’s poor shooting night (7-18) kept him at only 14 points. He did have four assists and six rebounds though, stat stuffing numbers that remain rather encouraging. Tony Snell had his hottest first half of the season, nailing five three pointers but mustering only one in the second half to finish with 20 points. Here’s the latest from our Locked on Bucks friends Eric and Frank on the Bucks’ clutch struggles in Washington and what to look for tonight in Detroit:
Milwaukee last faced the Pistons on October 30th in a 98-83 drumming during the 3rd game of the season. Detroit had an outrageous +18 in the rebounding battle that game, with Drummond snagging 23 on his own. John Henson will have his hands full and Greg Monroe will get another crack at his former paint-clogging partner. Giannis and Jabari were only 11-32 from the field and Milwaukee shot its 2nd lowest attempts from three that night with 17. Needless to say, Milwaukee hopes neither of those statistics are repeated this time around.
Rashad Vaughn is out with a left ankle sprain, Mirza Teletovic is doubtful with a concussion and (gasp) Steve Novak is questionable with illness. Get better Steve.
Detroit is coming off a 106-90 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but Lebron James sat the game out after their thrilling victory over the Golden State Warriors the day prior. The Pistons needed something to lift their spirits too, as their previous five-game losing streak dropped them to 14-18 before Monday’s win.
It was reported that Detroit also had a players only meeting after losing to the Indiana Pacers, 105-90, on December 17th. After most people projected a mini-leap for a squad that impressed last year and gave the Cavs plenty to handle in their four-game series, they’ve fallen flat on their faces. Reggie Jackson started the season injured with knee tendinitis, and the thought was that treading water in his absence would be a hugely successful outcome. They did that, but they’re just 4-8 since Jackson’s return. Their poor performance even elicited this from Andre Drummond per Mlive.com:
Yikes. It’s not often your star player touts the play of a backup guard who sneaked back into the league over his successful running mate from the season prior. It would probably behoove Drummond and co. to get back to playing the way they did last year, as he and Reggie led the league by a significant margin in pick and roll plays.
For his part, coach Stan Van Gundy wasn’t impressed by his players introspective gathering, and went off on his team after a drubbing by the Chicago Bulls following the loss to the Pacers. That prompted a starting lineup change, replacing former Buck Tobias Harris with former Buck & Badger Jon Leuer for the last two games.
Their problems run deeper though. Reggie Jackson is shooting worse than last year, turning the ball over more often and firing less assists. Stanley Johnson hasn’t shown appreciable improvement, even spending time in the D-League for a bit (upon his own request apparently). Andre Drummond is shooting the least percentage of his shots near the rim (46%) for his career despite shooting a career best percentage in that area (71%). Oh, did I also mention that Jon Leuer is starting?
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has had a fine season though, shooting 39% on 5.6 three-point attempts per game. That threat is somewhat isolated to Caldwell-Pope though, as the team is tied for the second least attempts from deep this year at 22. Detroit has managed to maintain the league’s 4th best defense this year, so Milwaukee will have to get past the Pistons’ array of rangy forwards and Caldwell-Pope.
Reggie Bullock remains out for the Pistons.
This is another of those important, early season Eastern conference playoff positioning games. Not to mention the fact it’s the second of a four-game road trip for Milwaukee that continues Friday night in Minnesota and ends in Chicago. Realistically, each of those should be winnable games. We’ll see whether the Bucks can channel their inner Jack Kerouac and start to thrive on the road.