There’s little to reflect on from last night’s complete drubbing, with the Milwaukee Bucks getting dismantled 110-87 against the Detroit Pistons. A slow-moving first quarter picked up after two Giannis dunks and Jabari Parker’s silky jumper carried Milwaukee to a tied game at 32 after one. Milwaukee found nothing even resembling success in the second quarter, looking listless on offense until they were losing 53-44 by halftime. An abhorrent third quarter sent Milwaukee further into a tailspin, as 15 of their 26 points came at the free throw line. They trailed Detroit 85-70 to start the fourth. The apocalyptic performance continued, and the scrubs entered with around eight minutes to go and the Pistons only continued the slaughter from there.
Three Main Observations
Second Quarter Sadness
Tonight’s second quarter was a miserable affair for both sides. The futility on offense was best epitomized by a Detroit possession that featured multiple poor pull-up midrange jumpers followed by four missed tip-ins for Andre Drummond beneath the bucket. Milwaukee looked exhausted and uninterested in pushing the pace or taking care of the ball driving to the basket. Something needed to change, whether it was tempo or the combo on the court, but someone had to take command of the offense and create something by getting to the rim. Prunty even took Giannis out for the last few minutes in favor of Parker to give Giannis a breather. Milwaukee scored just 12 points in the period.
Milwaukee’s third quarter featured an incredible reliance on drawing fouls against Pistons. They went 15/15 from the free throw line, and just 11 points came off shots, eight of which were due to Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton. They looked unable to function beyond trying pump fakes and hoping the Pistons would foolishly lean into their bodies. Thon Maker missed an easy oop, Giannis wasn’t hitting anything outside of a late three and Eric Bledsoe was about the only guy who could create something off the dribble. Milwaukee’s offense has improved slightly under Prunty (up from 107.2 to 108.1 in terms of offensive rating), but much of that came against the league’s cannon fodder. Nights like tonight, where they look staid, immobile and unable to use ball movement to find cutters in the lane as they did in the first quarter, are puzzling and frustrating.
There are plenty of issues to pick apart with Milwaukee, from their futility holding onto the ball (13 turnovers) to scoring 22 less points in the paint and trailing on fast break points by 12. However, the main takeaway will likely be the health of Giannis, who would’ve been pulled shortly after he left the game anyway in the fourth quarter given the contest was well out of hand. Folks will remember John Henson surprisingly missing a game earlier this year with an eye injury, so hopefully whatever is ailing Giannis will be minimal as well.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Sterling Brown got his first NBA start tonight with Tony Snell out with a right thigh contusion. Jabari Parker was also cleared to play in his first back-to-back yet this season.
Tonight’s start time was delayed due to the children’s dance routine beforehand splashing an inordinate amount of powder on the court. The court crew had to squeegee the entire court. I wish it had been enough to cancel the game completely.
Milwaukee’s shot selection early in the game was a series of difficult midrangers and tough shots at the rim, while Detroit seemed able to juke Milwaukee’s off-ball defenders off their shoes and shimmy to the rim for simple looks. Thankfully, Giannis ended that stretch of lethargic play by bullying and cutting his way to the rim for a duo of delightfully forceful dunks.
Giannis ran his usual dribble hand-off and rapid screen for a three on the perimeter with Tony Snell, but tonight Khris Middleton filled the Snell role. I can’t recall him running it much with Middleton, but it was refreshing to see it help Middleton nail one after going 0-fer yesterday.
My Henson pass du jour:
Detroit had 16(!) offensive rebounds in the first half alone compared to only four for Milwaukee. Those 16 boards matched both teams defensive rebound number for the half as well. It also led to 17 second chance points for the Pistons, while the Bucks mustered only four.
In case you gave up on the second quarter, went to grab dinner and hoped the third quarter would be a bit better, you were sorely mistaken to start. A foulfest proceeded and kept Milawukee’s offense from looking anything more than inert.
Bucks and Pistons both in the bonus with 7:52 left in the 3rd. Fun stuff.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) March 1, 2018
With 2:48 left to go in the third quarter, Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe had scored all 19 Milwaukee points in the quarter, 11 of those coming at the free throw line. The Buck scored just 26 for the period.
For anyone curious about the context of Giannis’ injury, here’s Matt Velazquez’s account of it. He went to the locker room with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter.
Giannis called for offensive basket interference and now he's down on the floor seemingly in pain. Refs call for the trainer. This night just went from bad to terrible for the Bucks.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) March 1, 2018
And an update from postgame:
Giannis said his left eye got hit in the 3rd quarter and his right eye got hit in the 4th. Right eye definitely looked like it took more impact. He said he had some blurred vision that continued postgame when he looked down. Hopes he can sleep it off. Says he’ll be fine.— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) March 1, 2018