The Detroit Pistons came into Milwaukee with a level of comfort that could be disconcerting for the Bucks team and fan base alike. Winners of two of the last three meetings between these teams, the Pistons were without havoc-wreaking reserve center Andre Drummond – so far one of the best rookies to come from the 2012 draft class – but still had one of the NBA’s best young big men in starting center Greg Monroe. The Bucks could have leveraged Drummond’s absence more were it not for an injury to their own stalwart center, NBA blocks leader Larry Sanders.
While the Pistons bigs did plenty of scoring, they were not the ones who broke the Bucks tonight, as the Milwaukee frontcourt made plenty of baskets, too. Jose Calderon – recently acquired from the Toronto Raptors – is the one who turned the lights out on the season series, playing both ends and earning a double-double to propel the Pistons to a 105-100 win.
Whether or not Calderon leaves Detroit for free agency this offseason, his 23 points, 10 assists, five rebounds and three steals more than amount for the five-point margin of victory the Pistons enjoyed tonight. But this one loss could sink the Bucks into a lower playoff seed or see them out of the postseason completely, if the Philadelphia 76ers can jockey themselves into position (completely plausible, if Andrew Bynum does, indeed, return before the regular season ends).
The Bucks are now 25-24 overall, 13-11 at home, and have fallen into the Eastern Conference’s eighth spot as the Boston Celtics have surged without Rajon Rondo.
Brandon Jennings inefficient volume shooting (8-23 for 26 points) is familiar. Monta Ellis’ performance (3-9 shooting, 8 points tonight) was reliably streaky, to use the most flattering oxymoron applicable to his season. The bench having a better +/- rating than the starting line-up is – you guessed it – familiar. This entire situation is too familiar.
What reassurance the Pistons possessed this evening is equivalent to the Bucks’ potential for collapsing right now. For Detroit, though, at 6.5 games behind the eighth seed, it is a one-night deal. It is now a season-long issue for Milwaukee.
Ersan Ilyasova logged his own double-double with 10 rebounds and 15 points while shooting over 50 percent, and contributed three of the starters’ 10 total steals, but the nine collective turnovers from Ellis, Jennings and fill-in center Samuel Dalembert (each committed three) invalidated those efforts. To be fair, Dalembert performed serviceably otherwise, recording five blocks and 14 points on 50 percent shooting. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had a good night from the field, too, going 5-9 for 11 points, although he turned the ball over twice.
The good? Sinking 25 free throws of a possible 28. The bad? The trade deadline is closing in and losing to a sub-.500 opponent is a team failure. Of the potential trade assets the Bucks hold, Dalembert and Ilyasova were the only ones who showed much worth, which only goes to bolster them as prospective targets for other teams.
Damn it, Jose Calderon. Damn it, Greg Monroe. Damn it, Pistons.