No mercy from red-hot Bucks as injury wave hits hard at Pistons
Gary Dineen (NBAE/Getty)
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 130-115 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum
THE WRIGHT STUFF – The Pistons pursued a Delon Wright trade because they saw him as the perfect complement for rookie Killian Hayes – someone who could play alongside him to ease the burden of stepping into the NBA as a 19-year-old starting point guard, someone who could play in his place when that would be the best course for the No. 7 pick in November’s draft. Wright now takes over as the starter with the tough news that Hayes’ injury in Monday’s game at Milwaukee was a torn right hip labrum that will sideline him indefinitely. The Pistons were missing both backcourt starters for Wednesday’s rematch with the Bucks as Josh Jackson, injured in Sunday’s game with Boston, missed his second straight start with a sprained ankle. To cap an emotionally turbulent day – one that began with news of Hayes’ injury and continued with acts of domestic terrorism in the nation’s Capitol Building – the Bucks and Pistons opened the game by kneeling in the backcourt to take alternating eight-second violations, a response to recent news that no charges would be brought against officers in the shooting of Milwaukee-area man Jacob Blake. After the intentional turnover, not much else went wrong for the Bucks, who scored 44 points in the first quarter, hit 12 3-point shots in the first half and looked every bit a runaway favorite to win the Eastern Conference. Jerami Grant led the Pistons in scoring again, topping 20 points for the seventh straight game and finishing with a career-high 31, adding nine rebounds and hitting 11 of 11 from the foul line. Rookie Saddiq Bey tied Allan Houston’s franchise record for 3-pointers made in a game, hitting 6 of 10 in a 20-point, 10-rebound outing.
BUCKS SEASON – Milwaukee has had the NBA’s best regular-season records the past two seasons but disappointing playoff ousters. Bucks management responded by reshaping the roster with an emphasis on adding shooting to surround two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. That shooting was put on full display against the Pistons, whose defensive missteps surely had something to do with the lineup shuffling and the fact Dwane Casey was playing units who’d not spent any meaningful time together all season. Antetokounmpo scored 43 points in Milwaukee’s win over the Pistons on Monday and came sprinting out of the gates again Wednesday, scoring 16 first-quarter points. But he didn’t have to do much heavy lifting after that, scoring only two of Milwaukee’s 38 second-quarter points and finishing with 25. Five Bucks made two 3-pointers in the first half alone, three of them – Bryn Forbes, Bobby Portis and rookie Jordan Nwora – picked up since last season. Milwaukee finished by making 19 of 43 from the 3-point arc and got multiple triples from six players. Khris Middleton hit 5 of 6, Brook Lopez 4 of 7 and Nwora 3 of 3.
ROSE AND WOES – A day of bad news got worse for the Pistons when Derrick Rose left the game late in the second quarter, went to the locker room and was determined to be out for the game with a right knee contusion. The loss of Rose left Delon Wright as the only point guard left on the roster among the 15 players on standard contracts. The Pistons have two point guards playing on two-way contracts, though. One of them, Saben Lee, made his NBA debut midway through the third quarter and had a most eventful first few seconds. Lee committed a turnover, hustled downcourt to immediately steal it back and then drove into the paint to draw a shooting foul. Lee finished with four points, an assist and two steals in 12 minutes. The other Pistons player on a two-way contract is Frank Jackson, who was the 31st overall pick of the 2017 draft and missed his entire rookie season due to injury before playing for New Orleans the past two seasons. Jackson was inactive for Wednesday’s game. The NBA loosened restrictions on the use of two-way players this season as a concession to the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential for increased absences. Previously two-way players were limited to 45 days during the G League calendar with the parent NBA team. The relaxed stipulation allows for players to be available for up to 50 NBA games.