Update (3:08 PM CT): Jon Leuer is starting tonight in place of Ilyasova.
The expectation for the Milwaukee Bucks‘ showdown with the Detroit Pistons on Thursday is that they’ll ride the coattails of Tuesday night’s huge win over the San Antonio Spurs. However, as Bucks coach Scott Skiles often says, “This is the NBA,” and weird things happen night-to-night, especially against the Pistons.
Milwaukee: 97.3 (22nd)
Detroit: 90.6 (29th)
Milwaukee: 99.1 (12th)
Detroit: 107.1 (29th)
Milwaukee: 95.8 (5th)
Detroit: 91.4 (27th)
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Stephen Jackson, Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, Andrew Bogut
Detroit Pistons: Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe
If you’re afraid of the Bucks being stuck in perpetual rebuilding mode or NBA purgatory, the Pistons’ roster should be all the Prozac you need to appreciate what Milwaukee has. Detroit definitely has the award for “Most Bad Contracts” locked up for the next two years at least. Ben Gordon (12 PER, 14.6 ppg, 42.1% fg, 42.9% 3fg), Rodney Stuckey 13.9 PER, 10.8 ppg, 32.2% fg, 4.8 apg), and Charlie Villanueva are all paid like first/second options but fit more of the role of a third/fourth option, and Tayshaun Prince (7.9 PER, 8.4 ppg, 36.1% fg, 3 rpg) would have been much better suited in a supporting role on a contender than as Detroit’s requisite defensive specialist.
As a team the Pistons are dead last in the NBA in PER (11.83), and they have yet to break triple digits in 2011-12. Detroit also doesn’t defend or score very well (28th in offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage). Those can be major problems when you are a professional basketball team.
Box Score Advantage: Turnovers
Both Gordon and rookie point guard Brandon Knight (9.9 PER, 11.4 ppg, 42.7% fg, 39.1% 3fg) average just over three turnovers per game, and the Pistons as a whole lead the NBA in turnover rate (16.75). Conversely, the Bucks match up well, ranking fourth in opponent turnover rate (16.51). That factor alone could swing the early momentum in Milwaukee’s favor.
Matchup to Watch: Greg Monroe vs. Andrew Bogut
Second-year center Greg Monroe (23.9 PER, 14.8 ppg, 57.4% fg, 8.5 rpg) is a white dwarf star among a team of black holes. Thankfully, the Bucks counter with Bogut, who’s defensive pedigree needs no elaboration. Monroe does most of his damage around the rim remarkably well (4.3-6, 71.7%), but his production drops off fairly dramatically when he’s asked to perform anything resembling a shot (1-2.5, 40% from 3-9 feet).
The Milwaukee Bucks have to beat teams like the Detroit Pistons if they want any chance at getting to the playoffs. If they lose, it will certainly be a result of their own lack of focus, quality shot selection, and ball movement. If Milwaukee can shoot, distribute, and rebound like they did against the Spurs, this one should be over by the middle of the third quarter.