Other than the eye-popping numbers Andre Drummond put up – 18 points and a new high of 18 rebounds, all accomplished in 27 minutes – there wasn’t much worth filing away in the memory banks from this one, though Frank surely will try his best to extract lessons in focus and poise and basketball IQ from a game that got completely out of control with the Pistons unable to reel it back in.
“It doesn’t really matter what I did tonight – we lost the game,” Drummond said. “I’m just worried about bouncing back tomorrow against Indiana. I just think we took our foot off the gas and let them get comfortable. They took a lot of threes and a lot of them went in because we let them get comfortable.”
The Pistons led 28-13 but the Bucks closed the quarter on a 6-0 run and kept charging. By the time they took their first lead at 39-38 with 4:48 left before halftime, the wind was fully at their back. The Pistons never led or were tied again. Milwaukee led by 10 at halftime and Frank was forced to call timeout twice before five minutes of the third quarter had elapsed.
Three straight triples from Jennings on consecutive possessions a few minutes after that blew the lead out to 29 points. At that juncture, Milwaukee had outscored the Pistons 72-28 since they trailed by 15.
It was a litany of Pistons turnovers (12 in the first half, 21 for the game) and Milwaukee offensive rebounds (a whopping 11 in the second quarter alone, 21 for the game) that were the bullet points in their undoing.
“You go into the game and a couple of keys we focused on were limiting their extra possessions – this is an outstanding offensive rebounding and turnover team,” Frank said. “So over the course of the game, we gave them 42 extra possessions.”
And that fueled hideous scoring runs for the Bucks, including a 12-0 spurt midway through the second quarter that turned a seven-point Pistons lead into a five-point deficit. Dunleavy scored 12 of his 17 in that quarter and Jennings blistered the Pistons for 19 of his 30 in the third, including a stretch where he scored 16 straight Milwaukee points and bombarded the Pistons for 12 points in a span of just four possessions. He hit his first five triple attempts in the third quarter.
“The two X-factors for them in their wins and their losses are Dunleavy and Jennings,” Frank said. “They had 47 points. That second quarter obviously was a very, very poor quarter and with that being said, it’s a 10-point game at half. And then we proceeded to give up a 39-point quarter. Very, very disappointing performance.”
Especially so because the Pistons were coming off an uplifting road win over Orlando where they rallied late after giving up the lead. Of their 10 home losses prior to Tuesday, the Pistons were double-digit losers only twice and not by more than 12 points.
“It was just a strange night, a strange game,” Charlie Villanueva said. “They turned it up and it just seemed like we couldn’t get into the flow of things. We came out playing well the first 10, 11 minutes of the game and then, after that, it was downhill.”
It was the type of humbling night that reminds all how fickle success in the NBA really is. By all reasonable estimations, the best road win the Pistons racked up this year came earlier this month at Milwaukee, when they came from eight points down at halftime to win by 16 on the strength of a 33-11 third quarter. Milwaukee’s edge over the Pistons in the second quarter almost mirrored that effort: 33-14.
“We got off to a good start,” Frank said. “We were up 15, could’ve been up 25. We had some transition opportunities we weren’t able to take advantage of. Poor close to the quarter and the whole personality changed. Other than one quarter of play, Milwaukee clearly outplayed us tonight.”
The footnote was Drummond’s whopping statistical night. The 18 and 18 were the first for a Pistons rookie since Terry Tyler put up 24 and 18 against New Orleans in 1978. Drummond became the only teenager other than Dwight Howard since 1985 with 18 and 18. But as Drummond was quick to point out in a somber locker room, those numbers seemed a little hollow in the wake of a 27-point shellacking.