The Milwaukee Bucks look a lot different today than they did on January 12, losing Andrew Bogut indefinitely and weathering Hurricane Stephen Jackson. As for the Detroit Pistons? Eh, not so much.
Tonight the Bucks play the first of two games in five days against a Pistons squad that is threatening to become the worst team to ever play NBA basketball in Detroit. The Pistons have mustered two wins in their last 10 games, and have the second worst point differential in the NBA for the season (-10). Detroit is 1-9 on the road, and is rapidly becoming the “it could be worse…” punch line for NBA fans everywhere.
Milwaukee Bucks: 98.3 (20th)
Detroit Pistons: 93.7 (28th)
Milwaukee Bucks: 100 (18th)
Detroit Pistons: 106.9 (29th)
Milwaukee Bucks: 95.4 (9th)
Detroit Pistons: 91.2 (28th)
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Shaun Livingston, Carlos Delfino, Luc Mbah a Moute, Drew Gooden
Detroit Pistons: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe, Ben Wallace
Box Score Advantage: 33.2-25.3 bench points
Milwaukee’s bench has been on a tear lately, leading the NBA in minutes (23), points (45.6) and rebounds (20.4) per game over their past five. Milwaukee Bucks reserves are averaging 33.2 points per game this season, while the Pistons are predictably heavy on contracts and light on production (25.3 bench ppg).
As much crap as Scott Skiles deserved for his missteps last Monday against the Atlanta Hawks, he deserves an equal amount of credit for managing solid second units when they have mattered most against playoff shoe-ins.
Matchup to watch: Greg Monroe vs. The Hardly Bigs
Greg Monroe abused the Bucks in his last trip to the Bradley Center, notching 32 points on 16 shots and 16 rebounds, regularly toying with the “best player on the court” label. That game was played with minimal offensive contributions from Andrew Bogut (10 pts, 4-9 FG, 4 rbs). You can only hope Monroe wasn’t salivating heavily while watching the underused Andrew Bynum toss Drew Gooden around like tackling dummy Saturday night.
Bottom Line: Deja Vu
After trailing by as many as 20 points, the Pistons closed to gap to three with a little more than a minute remaining in the fourth. However, Greg Monroe was incapable of cloning himself across all four positions, and Detroit left with a predictable loss. The Bucks mostly treated the mid-range area like lava, draining threes (11-22) and finishing consistently at the rim (17-24).
Expect a near identical performance from both teams tonight. The Pistons will likely make one decent run, sandwiched between a lot of Greg Monroe, a little Brandon Knight, and a lot of jumping up and down from coach Lawrence Frank.
Even if the Bucks don’t hit 50% of their threes, Milwaukee’s depth has been very impressive against good-to-great teams over the past few weeks. With Stephen Jackson returning, that should continue against a team vying for the top spot in the 2012 NBA Lottery.