Needing to be razor sharp, Pistons battle but can’t overcome raging Bucks
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Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 127-103 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Little Caesars Arena
BUCKS STILL BEST – The Pistons were coming off of consecutive wins of 30 or more points for the first time in franchise history, but that probably didn’t do much to intimidate – or impress, even – Milwaukee. The 18-3 Bucks, the No. 1 team in the East, were coming off of consecutive wins of 41 and 44 points. To beat the Bucks, the Pistons were going to have to play as close to flawlessly as a basketball team can play – especially on a night Luke Kennard and his 16.5 points a game were unavailable. The Pistons were less than flawless. Early on, when their defense frustrated Milwaukee, the Bucks were able to stay close because the Pistons committed five first-quarter turnovers converted into six points and allow five offensive rebounds Milwaukee turned into eight more points. That was more than half of its first-quarter total of 22. The Pistons also hurt themselves by missing half of their 12 first-half free throws. Dwane Casey refers to “compete level” and he’ll have no issues with that aspect of the Pistons play this time out. The execution was another matter. Milwaukee surged to an 18-point lead late in the second quarter before the Pistons cut it to 11 at halftime. It was still an eight-point deficit late in the third quarter when the Pistons went scoreless over the last 3:28 covering seven possessions. Milwaukee closed on a 12-0 run and that was the story of the night. The loss was the 10th straight to Milwaukee including last spring’s playoff sweep.
NO KENNARD – With Luke Kennard missing the game with soreness in both knees, the Pistons wing rotation took another hit. With Bruce Brown shifted to point guard to plug the hole left by Reggie Jackson’s injury and Khyri Thomas injured, Dwane Casey was left with Tony Snell, Svi Mykhailiuk and Langston Galloway. When Snell picked up a third foul seven minutes before halftime, Casey had to buy some minutes with Brown on the wing, in turn forcing him to extend Derrick Rose’s minutes a little longer than he usually plays him in the first half, 14 minutes. Mykhailiuk played nearly 19 first-half minutes, which might have played a part in Casey’s decision to start Galloway in the second half over Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk wound up playing 28 minutes and Galloway matched his season high with 38.
BENCH REBOOT – The Pistons bench was coming off of two games in which it contributed 75 and 67 points to blowout wins. They weren’t going to approach those numbers against a team that was coming in on a 12-game winning streak, simply because the minutes wouldn’t be nearly as plentiful. And the Luke Kennard injury and the subsequent flopping of first Svi Mykhailiuk and then Langlois Galloway to the starting lineup in each half messed with the chemistry of a group that had had its stride. In each of the past two games, diverse scoring powered the bench. Four players scored in double figures in each game and a fifth reserve finished with eight points. This time Galloway and Rose provided nearly all the bench scoring punch, Galloway with 20 points and Rose 14. Markieff Morris finished with five points and Christian Wood with seven. Casey used nine players until the waning minutes with the outcome settled. The bench wound up contributing 51 points.