Conquering the Detroit Pistons proved an easy task for Milwaukee tonight, even with a piddly scoring night from Giannis Antetokounmpo who finished with merely eight points in a rarely-in-doubt 102-89 win for the Bucks.
Michael Beasley set the tone from the outset, going 5-5 in the first quarter with Greg Monroe tapping in for the second quarter to pick up the scoring punch off the bench. Detroit looked generally disinterested in playing from the beginning, and their frontcourt had no answer for Beasley or Monroe all night. The Bucks decimated the Pistons with some of their prettiest ball movement sequences of the night, but the brunt of their success still came off isolation plays from Beas or Monroe. Detroit never really made it close all night, and turned the ball over more often than usual as their three-point averse offense never seemed to pose much of a threat.
Giannis finished with eight points, four rebounds and six assists while Super Cool Beas ended with 23 points, three rebounds, four assists and three steals. Greg Monroe chimed in with 25 points, 13 rebounds and three steals of his own and Khris Middleton had 11 points and three assists including a few nifty jumpers that looked like the Middleton of yesteryear. Tony Snell managed 16 points on 4-8 shooting from deep.
For Detroit, their starting frontcourt were the only players to realize they were playing tonight, as Andre Drummond led the way with 21 points and 12 rebounds, Marcus Morris added 26 points, five rebounds and three assists and Jon Leuer rounded it out with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Milwaukee ended the night at 50.6% shooting compared to Detroit’s 43.6%. Both teams attempted 21 threes tonight, with Detroit hitting seven to Milwaukee’s six, a piddly, below average night for both squads. Despite being outrebounded by 11 tonight and giving up 12 offensive boards to Detroit, Milwaukee was able to capitalize on 17 Detroit turnovers for a team that typically only has 12 per game. That, coupled with a healthy number of assists (26 on 40 makes) that bely a night where Beasley and Monroe scored so often in isolation, wound up being the difference for Milwaukee.
Milwaukee started the night with a scoring spree from the obvious duo of Tony Snell and Michael Beasley. Beasley took every opportunity to steer the offense, driving against the Piston’s frontcourt and scoring 10 of Milwaukee’s first 15 points. Tony Snell added the other five, and Greg Monroe was the first to break the streak as Milwaukee tied Detroit at 19 with two minutes left. Khris Middleton entered for the first time and shimmied his way to a jumper of yore and Milwaukee led 23-19 after one despite Giannis going scoreless.
Milwaukee opened the second quarter piping hot, getting into their offense quickly and attacking the Detroit defensive front before it had a chance to get set. Greg Monroe attacked Aron Baynes in a one-on-one, then got an alley-oop from Giannis after a steal and Jason Terry chucked home an above-the-break three after the Bucks kicked it out from beneath the basket. Here’s footage of the Monroe oop in case you thought I slipped in something fake to make sure you were paying attention:
The Bucks led 41-27 halfway through the second even with Giannis still at a goose egg in the scoring column. Michael Beasley’s return to the game didn’t disappoint, as he dropped in two “there’s a reason I was picked number two” jumpers over the blank Minnesotan stare of Jon Leuer, staving off a mini Pistons run and returning the Bucks lead to 14. Milwaukee went into halftime leading 51-34, with Michael Beasley leading the charge at 16 points and Greg Monroe at 17 points and six rebounds. Giannis remained scoreless at halftime.
Andre Drummond was about the only guy who showed up for Detroit, scoring 16 points and six rebounds, even hitting an uncharacteristic 4-6 from the line. Detroit had 11 turnovers at halftime despite only averaging 12.1 per game, and the Bucks had managed to get 13 points off those turnovers. Conversely, Milwaukee only barfed it up four times, and shot 10% better from the field than Detroit at 47.8%. Both teams were putrid from beyond the arc in the first half, going 1-8 for the Pistons and 2-11 for Milwaukee.
Thon Maker slammed home an extra pass dunk from Snell to start the third quarter, but the Detroit Pistons answered with a 9-0 culminating in a Marcus Morris three to make it 56-43, prompting a timeout from Jason Kidd. Afterwards, Giannis finally got on the board with a pull-up jumper over Leuer. Milwaukee kept rampaging the lifeless Pistons, with Thon posting a highlight dunk after attacking a weak closeout by Andre Drummond. Moose made his living at the hoop down the stretch, and the Bucks led 77-61 after three.
Detroit got the game to within 11 in the early goings of the fourth, but a typical Greg Monroe one-foot shot and Micheal Beasley block leading to a passing sequence that ended with a Jason Terry transition three put Milwaukee back up 86-70. A Tony Snell three off a kickout from Giannis gave Milwaukee a 97-78 lead. Detroit hit a few garbage time threes to make the game appear closer than it was, but the Bucks still won 102-89.
- Thon Maker’s game time minutes continue to be a mixed bag. In the first quarter alone, he oscillated between decent one-on-one defense against Drummond and opening up a freeway’s worth of space on the court by popping to the three-point line, to giving up an easy board to Drummond and trying to do too much in the corner before turning the ball over on a weak cross-court pass. Similarly, in the second quarter he went up for a dunk only to be blocked by the rim, and recovered on the next possession by going up with feeling against Aron Baynes and the goose nest atop his head for a layup. The Thon experience is a roller coaster still, but the fact he’s flashing some useful tools make that experience continually compelling.
- Starting off the second quarter, the Bucks were playing an aesthetically pleasing free-flowing brand of basketball whereby they attacked the Pistons immediately, either forcing penetration or whirling the ball to someone in the corner quickly. They zipped the ball to one another, finding shooters peppered around the exterior whenever possible. Pretty stuff, and something I wish they’d do more rather than some of the staid sets they typically run.
- Milwaukee dominated the first half against Detroit due to the unlikely dynamite contributions from Michael Beasley and Greg Monroe. Their scoring aptitude helped offset Giannis’ zero points, but it wasn’t like Giannis was playing poorly. It just so happened that Beasley was unconscious in the first half, drilling shots from anywhere he pleased. He liked his matchup against any of the Pistons’ bigs, and Monroe similarly bullied any Piston who sized him up.
- Khris Middleton had a baseline pass to Greg Monroe in the paint that had so much English on it I’m surprised the ball wasn’t soaked in tea pregame. Middleton’s presence as a second unit playmaker has already seemed more natural than Jabari ever was in that role, and it takes a significant amount of pressure off of Malcolm Brogdon, especially as he starts banging against the rookie wall.
- Middleton also had a shimmying jumper and stepback jumper tonight. Slow and steady.
- Thon got a pass on the wing from the post and caught it mid-movement which enabled him to blow by Drummond for an easy slam at the rim. It’s one of the first dynamic plays he’s made off the dribble this year, mainly because it didn’t really rely on him creating his own offense. If Milwaukee starts to leverage his three-point ability not just for its gravity, but in allowing him to attack closeouts too with simple moves, he’ll be that much more valuable to the offense.
- I’m gonna sleep soundly tonight:
Johnny O'Bryant just hit a 3.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 14, 2017
In a game.
Vs. the Warriors.
- Tony Snell just continues to improve as the season rolls on. He’s turned me from a skeptic to a less skeptical skeptic. If he’s hitting threes, he’s valuable; it’s just gonna be a question of how valuable his impending free agency proves he is that’s important.
Tony Snell now 3/6 from three, moving him to an even 40.0% from deep on the season.— Frank Madden (@fmaddenNBA) February 14, 2017
- Giannis took single digit shots again tonight with nine, and generally looked to be facilitating significantly more than looking for his own shot. On a night when guys like Beasley and Monroe have it going that’s probably a good thing, but tonight also feels like a shrug your shoulders game. This team and ultimately this season revolve entirely around re-framing your future around Giannis and discovering who else will be useful long-term complements. So, if a win tonight can make Giannis more happy, that’s great, but I don’t particularly care about a game where the Bucks won because of a couple hot nights from two veterans and their superstar felt more like a headband than a jersey. I’m not advocating for a tank, nor am I saying they should’ve lost this game, but it’s tough to get excited for a win that felt devoid of the kind of developments one would hope to see for the rest of this season outside of one or two Thon sequences.