Pistons pull away as Wilcox stars in win over Milwaukee
Instead, it was two teams waiting for a season of hard knocks to come to a close and shifting their organizational focus to the June draft and the May lottery where franchise fortunes can be changed by the drop of a ping-pong ball.
The Pistons missed the playoffs a year ago, after an injury-wracked season, following eight straight years of postseason play including six straight trips to the conference finals and an NBA title. The Bucks, in Hammond’s second year since leaving the Pistons, ended their playoff drought last season and fortified over the summer by picking up talents like Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden.
But not much went right for either team this season. One of the biggest drags on Milwaukee’s season was the uneven return from serious elbow injury by Andrew Bogut, who was in street clothes Friday night, shut down for the season and scheduled for more surgery on the elbow he injured late last season.
That tipped the misfortune scales to the Pistons, who capitalized on Milwaukee’s lack of punch with a 110-100 win on the day it was announced that owner Karen Davidson had struck a deal with Tom Gores to buy the team, pending NBA approval.
Without Bogut, Milwaukee’s frontcourt was practically devoid of scoring. In fact, the Bucks got exactly that – zero points – from their three frontcourt starters. Brandon Jennings scored 31 of the 41 points Milwaukee got from its starting five, John Salmons contributing the other 10.
The Pistons, meanwhile, were getting something of a career night from Chris Wilcox. After a solid first half, when he put up eight points and seven boards in 10 minutes, Wilcox dominated the third quarter, scoring 15 points as the Pistons stretched a four-point halftime lead to 10. Wilcox finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds – both season highs in the best game of his two-year stint as a Piston, and the most points he’s had in more than three years, since he scored 28 for Seattle against Toronto on March 9, 2008.
“I just wanted to be aggressive,” he said. “We’ve got a couple of games left and I just want to finish strong. I’ve been hurt the past couple of months or whatever, but starting to feel a little better, starting to get it together and things are starting to work out for me.”
Wilcox was bothered all of last season by a back injury incurred on the first day of training camp. This year, a hamstring pull late in camp derailed what had been an eye-opening start. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end, but he’ll draw interest despite his injury history simply because not many players of his size – 6-foot-10, 235 pounds – can match Wilcox’s athleticism.
“He did a great job for us tonight,” Austin Daye said. “He’s a really active guy and when he’s able to get his hands on a lot of basketballs, he’s able to do great things.”
“Chris Wilcox was outstanding,” John Kuester said. “The way Chris was so good was because of his ability to slash when people were posting up, getting offensive rebounds, showing his athleticism, something that we needed.”
With Will Bynum down with a right knee strain, Tracy McGrady started at point guard but Rodney Stuckey replaced him early in the third quarter – with McGrady amid a scoreless night when he didn’t attempt a shot – and had his second straight strong performance. Stuckey finished with 22 points, four rebounds and four assists.
Three other Pistons scored in double figures. Tayshaun Prince chipped in with 16 points and seven boards, Charlie Villanueva had 15 off the bench and Greg Monroe put up 11 points and eight boards.