Pistons lose 2nd straight – and lose a key player to injury for the 2nd straight game
Three quick observations from Wednesday night’s 115-92 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum
NOT ENOUGH HELP – Blake Griffin is accustomed to carrying the offensive burden, but he needs more help than he got in Milwaukee. The Pistons fell behind by nine points after a quarter and it stayed in the 10-point range throughout the first half with Griffin doing everything he could to keep the Pistons within hailing distance. But the game got out of hand early in the third quarter – the same blueprint followed in Monday’s loss to Oklahoma City – as Milwaukee went up by 26 five minutes into the quarter. Griffin didn’t play in the fourth quarter, but left with 31 of the team’s 64 points to that juncture, hitting 11 of 21 overall and 4 of 10 from the 3-point arc while his teammates were going 14 of 54 overall and 3 of 20 from the 3-point line. A second Pistons player didn’t get into double figures until Reggie Jackson’s two free throws early in the fourth quarter gave him 11 points. Jackson finished with 15 points, while Andre Drummond logged 10 points and eight rebounds. Milwaukee’s spread offense – consistently featuring all five players spread around the 3-point arc – compelled Drummond to stray far from the rim, deflating his rebound numbers, and opened driving lanes that Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe exploited for 18 first-half points on his way to a game-high 27.
GALLOWAY STEPS IN – Dwane Casey went with the most logical option to replace Reggie Bullock, who missed the game after suffering a sprained left ankle in Monday’s loss to Oklahoma City. Langston Galloway – averaging 25 minutes a game and the player Casey went to when Bullock went down three minutes in to Monday’s game – took Bullock’s spot as the starter at shooting guard. Galloway only managed to get off five shots in his 23 minutes, finishing 1 of 4 from the 3-point arc for five points. The Pistons finished just 9 of 38 from the arc, 23.7 percent. Milwaukee was also missing a key starter, ex-Piston Khris Middleton. Middleton was benched in the fourth quarter and overtime when Milwaukee lost at New York in its most recent game and he missed Wednesday’s game for “personal reasons,” the Bucks said. With the game getting out of hand in the fourth quarter, Casey went to rookie Khyri Thomas to finish it out and he scored three points, hitting 1 of 3 from the 3-point line, to go with three rebounds and two assists in 11 minutes.
ANOTHER INJURY – Ish Smith wasn’t having a great night in his 15 first-half minutes, but it got worse for him when he suffered an apparent leg in the second quarter and departed for the locker room, visibly angry. He did not return after suffering a strained right groin muscle. Smith has been a remarkably durable player since signing with the Pistons in July 2016, playing in 184 of 185 games with his only miss coming Jan. 13, 2017 at Utah when Stan Van Gundy decided to give him a night off when he felt Smith was pressing. In 21 games coming into Wednesday, Smith held averages of 9.7 points and 3.1 assists in 25 minutes a game as the heartbeat of Dwane Casey’s second unit. Jose Calderon is the logical candidate to take Smith’s spot as the point guard to back up Reggie Jackson. Calderon went scoreless in 13 minutes, missing all four of his shots. It was a tough night all around for the bench, which shot a collective 6 of 31 through three quarters before both benches emptied in the fourth.