Three quick observations from Monday night’s 150-130 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Little Caesars Arena
OVER EARLY – The combination of Milwaukee boosted by the returns of two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and three-time All-Star Khris Middleton from injury and the Pistons apparently dealing with a Paris trip malaise proved toxic in a one-sided fight that saw Milwaukee dominate the Pistons. It was effectively over when Dwane Casey had to call two timeouts in the game’s first five minutes, at which point the Bucks led 28-8. Milwaukee matched the 40 points that had been the first-quarter high for a Pistons opponent this season with 3:56 still to play on a 3-pointer from Antetokounmpo to give him 20 points. They went past the previous high of 72 points in a first half by a Pistons opponent with 3;25 left in the second quarter on a Bobby Portis triple. The Bucks hit 100 with five minutes left in the third quarter and went past the previous high of 147 scored by Philadelphia on Jan. 10 with 1:56 to play. They tore past the previous high for threes made against the Pistons this season (20, Utah) by hitting 23 and also established a new high with 53 3-point tries against the Pistons. Antetokounmpo finished with 29 points and 12 rebounds after missing five games. Middleton, playing in only his eighth game this season, scored eight points in 15 minutes off the bench. Bojan Bogdnovic scored 33 points in three quarters before shutting it down for the night. He hit 11 of 15 shots, 6 of 7 from the 3-point arc and all five of his foul shots in 28 tidy minutes.
ROOKIE RAVES – If you want to focus on something positive, take the strides Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey have made in a few specific areas. With Duren, look At the area of free-throw shooting and project that to what it might say about his offensive potential down the road. Duren, who hit 4 of 4, made just 10 of 29 free throws in the first month-plus of his rookie season, but since then he’s 36 of 50 of 72 percent.
Duren has spent hours with Pistons development chief John Beilein, whose ability to improve shooting has long been widely acknowledged. Duren’s an adept ballhandler growing into a proficient dribble handoff facilitator and has been lauded by Dwane Casey for his advanced screening techniques as a rookie. Duren recorded his rookie-best 10th double-double, finishing with a personal scoring best of 23 points to go with 14 rebounds on 9 of 13 shooting. Ivey, who had to shoulder more playmaking duties than anticipated with the loss of Cade Cunningham, had the ball in his hands even more against Milwaukee as Killian Hayes missed the game with a left shoulder contusion suffered late in last week’s game in Paris. Ivey tied his previous high of nine assists midway through the third quarter and set a new high upon re-entering the game in the fourth quarter. He finished with 11 assists to go with 12 points.
ODE TO BOB – The Pistons dedicated the night to honoring the memory of Bob Lanier, the player they took with the No. 1 draft pick in 1970 – the last top overall pick the Pistons would have until winning the 2021 lottery and drafting Cade Cunningham. Lanier, who died in May at 73, was a 1992 inductee into the Hall of Fame. He played his entire 15-year NBA career with the Pistons and Bucks, playing in seven All-Star games during his nine full seasons with the Pistons and one more during his time in Milwaukee. Lanier averaged 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds with the Pistons and still ranks third in Pistons career scoring behind Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars and third in rebounds behind Bill Laimbeer and Andre Drummond. He’s also fourth in blocked shots despite the fact it wasn’t an official statistic until his fourth season. The Pistons had taped messages from Dave Bing, Isiah Thomas, George Blaha and Rick Mahorn in each of the game’s four quarters play on the video boards and staged a halftime ceremony with a moving tribute voiced by Blaha. Several members of Lanier’s family were in attendance for the tribute and introduced to the crowd while escorted by ex-Pistons Ben Wallace, James Edwards and Lindsey Hunter.