The winds of victory are in the air in Milwaukee, with a 116-100 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night providing a momentary respite from the tumultuous news of Jabari Parker’s ACL injury and the general ineptness of the Bucks over the past month. They’ll face a Detroit team still exuberant after a narrow 102-101 defeat of the Toronto Raptors.
Milwaukee is basking in the glow of a comforting win over Indiana on Saturday night, when their bench and three-point shooting providing a much-needed boon to the team. Giannis nearly found his way to his third triple-double of the season with 20 points (on nine shots!), eight rebounds and ten assists.
Backing him up was the triumvirate of Malcolm Brogdon, Greg Monroe and Mirza Teletovic, all of whom racked up double-digit scoring nights with Teletovic in particular leading the charge from beyond the arc finishing with 19 points on 5-9 shooting from deep. Milwaukee started the game with a limber lineup, starting Michael Beasley and Thon Maker in the frontcourt alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo. Thon ended with 22 minutes on the night going 3-5 from deep, and it’ll be fascinating to see how much time he’ll get against the burly Andre Drummond tonight. His three-point ability will provide an easy maneuver to draw Drummond from the hoop, but whether Thon can hold his own against Drummond on the defensive boards will probably dictate how many minutes he’ll play.
Rashad Vaughn even got 25 minutes against Indiana with Khris Middleton not making the trip. I’d expect his playtime to be limited to potentially non-existent if Middleton plays tonight, but his decent defensive showing could mean he’ll get a chance against the marksman Caldwell-Pope.
Last time these two teams faced one another, Milwaukee absolutely drubbed the Pistons 119-94, who were in the midst of their own sequence of turmoil and team meetings. The script is somewhat flipped now, as Detroit is tied with the Bulls for the seventh seed and Milwaukee is mired in a slump staring droopy-eyed as they wistfully clear the fog on the window to the playoff picture. If the playoffs are still the goal, then this is a game they need to win against an East opponent above them in the standings. And if not, the cellar of the lottery standings is tantalizingly nearby.
Detroit staged a ferocious comeback last night against their northern neighbors, the Toronto Raptors, emerging from a 16-point deficit to win after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope nailed a three-pointer with 13.2 seconds left to slam the game shut.
The Pistons got a boost from Tobias Harris off the bench, finishing with 26 points as the Pistons bench all posted positive plus-minuses on the night. Ish Smith ended with 15 points and wound up playing nearly twice as much as starter Reggie Jackson, who Stan Van Gundy kept strapped to the pine in the fourth quarter in favor of Smith.
Jackson, for his part, continues to struggle this year after coming back from the knee injury he suffered before the season. He’s averaging similar Per-36 numbers as last year, but he’s getting to the line a little over one time less this season and isn’t shooting as well out of the pick-and-roll as a ball handler, the Pistons’ primary offensive play. His per game plus-minus mark is -6.9, worst on the team if you discount the little used Reggie Bullock and Henry Ellenson.
The Pistons sport the tenth-best defensive rating in the league, but haven’t matched it on the other end with their 22nd ranked offense. They are in the top-ten in terms of rebound percentage in the league, but only sixteenth in offensive rebound rate, a potential sliver of hope for a Bucks team who continues to be one of the worst defensive rebounding teams in the league. Their ability to keep Andre Drummond off the boards will go a long way towards determining how much they’re able to shut down a lackluster Detroit attack that shoots even less threes per game than the Bucks (22.9). Milwaukee found success against a similar three-averse team in Indiana, and hope to carry that forward tonight.
Transition and fast break baskets may be hard to come by for Milwaukee, as Detroit turns the ball over at the second-lowest rate in the league (12.4), tied with Toronto at that protective mark.
The Pistons are injury free for tonight’s game.