A Hole Too Deep

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– Milwaukee started the game sizzling, shooting 69 percent in the first quarter and leading 30-16 while scoring just eight points in the paint – the same as the Pistons managed in shooting about half as efficiently at 35 percent. They did it almost exclusively by draining jump shots, including a pair of 3-pointers. Brandon Jennings scored nine points in the quarter and Mike Dunleavy came off the bench to score six in less than three minutes. Jennings finished with 21 points and Dunleavy with a season-high 20 as he made 8 of 10 shots. The Bucks made 10 of 17 from the 3-point line while the Pistons were 1 of 9, giving the Bucks a 27-point advantage from the arc.

BLUE COLLAR – The Pistons fell 18 down midway through the second quarter and it was about that time that they almost scrapped their offense and went to a series of clear-out plays for Rodney Stuckey, being guarded by Shaun Livingston. In a span of four possessions late in the half, Stuckey scored seven points by drawing three fouls, including one after a make, knocking down 5 for 5 at the line. The 17-5 run to end the half cut the Pistons’ deficit to six and put them in position to win with a strong second half. Stuckey was as cold as all of them to start the game, going 1 of 5 with two turnovers in the first quarter. But he bounced back to finish with 19 points, six assists and three rebounds.

RED FLAG – All that good work the Pistons did to get themselves back in the game at the half was almost completely wiped out in the first few minutes of the third quarter. The Bucks outscored them 12-2 to get back all but two points of their 18-point cushion. The Pistons briefly rallied with an 8-0 run, but Milwaukee finished the third quarter ahead by 15. Whatever slim chance the Pistons might have had at a comeback at that point was obliterated when the Bucks went on a 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter and push their lead to 23. The Pistons don’t have the offensive firepower to consistently make up for slow starts, never mind three of them over the course of one four-quarters game.

MILWAUKEE - Since Detroit just swiped Prince Fielder from Milwaukee, let’s put Monday’s Pistons-Bucks basketball game in baseball terms: If the Pistons were a baseball team, they’d have to win by playing small ball. Move the runners along, pitch it and catch it. They can’t win slugfests. They can’t let the other team put up crooked numbers in multiple early innings and expect to come back.

Well, that’s what the Pistons did – spot the Bucks a big early lead, erase two-thirds of it, then let them do it all over again. Milwaukee shot open jump shots to the tune of a 69-percent first quarter to build an 18-point lead, but the Pistons closed the first half on a 17-5 run to get within six. But the third quarter was the first half replayed, Milwaukee blowing it right back to 16 with a 12-2 run to open the half.

“It always hurts when you cut down a lead and you give it right back to ’em,” said Greg Monroe, who posted another double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds but only got off 12 shots. “That being said, whenever you do fight back, you have to be perfect for the rest of the game and that’s something we didn’t do. We have to find ways to stay in games early.”

A comeback from 15 down to start the fourth quarter was a long shot, but any chance was obliterated when the Pistons started yet another quarter in a funk, Milwaukee opening with a 10-2 run in the first two minutes to take its lead to 23. A common denominator throughout was Milwaukee making the Pistons pay a heavy price for their 16 turnovers, converting them into 28 points, many of those baskets fueling the early-quarter runs.

“You look at both the first and third quarters combined, we gave up 58 points,” said Lawrence Frank, who must have set a season high for timeouts called out of frustration. “To start the third quarter, we had five turnovers, four jump shots. You look at the points off turnovers, get doubled up basically (both teams committed 16 turnovers, but the Bucks scored 28 to Detroit’s 16 points off of turnovers.) We made it a two-possession game – when you look at some of the shots we missed in the first half, it could have been closer – and then the third quarter, they came out and they blitzed us.”

A unit that included Austin Daye was on the floor when the Pistons made their late first-half comeback, so Frank – hoping momentum would carry over and countering Milwaukee’s smaller look without Andrew Bogut, out with a fractured ankle – started Daye for Ben Wallace, who didn’t play after halftime, in the third quarter.

“It was just how we finished the quarter and how we started the first quarter,” Frank said. “Give it a different look. It was just trying to ride the wave of momentum. That group was playing well and we didn’t start the first quarter very well. It’s not (Wallace’s) fault. They were a bit smaller and we felt it was worth a try.”

“You just want to come out and get stops any time you get a run,” said Brandon Knight, who didn’t score in probably the least effective night of his young career. “You want to keep it going.”

Rodney Stuckey was as ice cold early as all but Monroe and Tayshaun Prince – they scored six points each and shot 6 of 13 in the first quarter while the rest of the team made 2 of 10 – but it was Stuckey who carried the scoring in the second quarter when they made their run. He knocked down 7 of 7 at the line and scored 11 second-quarter points by attacking the basket, the Pistons clearing out the left side for him repeatedly. He finished with 19 points, but to extend the baseball analogy the Bucks kept hitting home runs – they were 10 of 17 from the 3-point line – while the Pistons kept hitting fly balls to the warning track, failing to connect on any of their first eight 3-point attempts, a streak snapped with a minute left when Jonas Jerebko finally connected.

But it was more than hot Milwaukee shooting, Frank contended.

“It was too easy,” he said. “They were able to get wherever they wanted to go and once they got into a rhythm in the second half, they were driving us to death and driving and kicking. There just wasn’t a lot of duress. They’ve got to feel you and I just never felt it in the first or third quarter.”