The story of the first half ended up being the the story of the game as the Detroit Pistons defeated Milwaukee 113-94 on Monday night, dropping the Bucks to 2-11 on the year as the Deer added a ninth straight loss to their less-than-stellar season. However, tonight’s loss may have stung more than the rest, as it was the first time the team faced the former face-of-the-franchise, Brandon Jennings, now clad in Pistons gear. The four-year Buck point guard played as he rarely did before being traded, vanquishing his old team and some familiar faces with accurate shooting (5-10, 4-6 from three), as Jennings sank all four of his three-point attempts in the first quarter on the way to a 15-point, 13-assist double-double.
Forward Khris Middleton, acquired by the Bucks in the Jennings swap, and shooting guard Gary Neal each stocked up 14 points as back-up big man John Henson notched 15, though their efforts could not counteract Detroit’s hyper-efficient attack. Led by back-up shooting guard Rodney Stuckey’s 17 points, seven Pistons scored in double-digits, including all five starters. The presence of Larry Sanders — or any low-post presence — was severely missed as four were members of Detroit’s front court. While the Bucks did actually score more points in the paint (42 to the Pistons’ 40), they shot themselves in the foot with turnovers gifting the ball to the opposition 20 times, which the Pistons turned into 26 points, many of them coming on fast breaks and becoming uncontested dunks. It happened early and often, with Detroit creating an 8-2 lead capped by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope capitalizing on a turnover and finishing a dunk in transition before a Milwaukee timeout allowed the Bucks to gather themselves a bit and come back to within three points (17-14). Had they not committed four turnovers in fewer than seven minutes of gametime, the Bucks’ 5-9 shooting to that point could have had them in the lead for a short time. As it were, they trailed the entire game, with the Pistons having as many points in the paint (30) as the Milwaukee had overall.
For those needing a silver lining, rookie Nate Wolters continued to be a bright spot. His line of three assists, zero turnovers, and eight points on 4-6 shooting resulted in a +/- rating of +11, a team high with only Giannis Antetokounmpo (+7) and Neal (+1) garnering positive ratings among the other Bucks.
Plus/minus is a bit of a misnomer in such a lopsided event, though, as Henson can attest. As a reflection of the line-ups with which he played, Henson’s -13 does not quite encapsulate his game against the Pistons. He scored efficiently (7-12 shooting), as has been his M.O., and even split a pair of free throws despite his horrendous charity stripe efforts as of late. Henson did a little of everything, grabbing seven rebounds (four of them on offense), blocking two shots, stealing the ball twice, and even assisting on a basket while only committing one turnover and being whistled for just one foul.
If there is solace to be had, it is in the Bucks’ youth. Henson is developing with consistent playing time in his second year, Wolters and Antetokounmpo have been playing well off the bench, and well…the Bucks are still 2-11; still 1-6 on the road. Maybe it’s good that Milwaukee’s young players are shining brighter than anyone else on the roster. They may be in the midst of a younger, immediately more hyped player come this time next year if the 2013-14 season keep going that way it did Monday night against the Pistons, and eight other teams before that.