Frontcourt Powers Pistons Past Bucks

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Andre Drummond rises up for one of his several dunks in Wednesday’s win over the Bucks.

When the Bucks and Pistons met in Detroit on November 25, Andre Drummond put up a quiet 12 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes. It was one of only four times this season he’s been held under 10 rebounds and it snapped a streak of eight straight double-digit rebound games. In the teams’ second matchup Wednesday, Drummond showed why he might be the frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

The bouncy second-year center finished with a ridiculous line of 24 points, 19 rebounds, two steals and three blocks in Detroit’s 105-98 victory. Drummond even hit 8-of-14 free throws, a massive accomplishment considering he was shooting just over 32 percent from the line heading into Wednesday’s game. That’s not only the worst percentage in the NBA this season; it’s the worst percentage of all-time among players who have attempted at least 200 free throws (if you’re curious, former Pistons great Ben Wallace is in the top five). So yeah, not great, but people tend to let things like being the worst free throw shooter ever slide when you’ve hauled in 56 rebounds over your past three games.

Drummond had some help in dismantling the Bucks inside. Greg Monroe added 18 points and a season-high 17 rebounds to go with three assists and two blocks. The pair nearly outrebounded the Bucks as a team, falling just seven boards short of Milwaukee’s cumulative 43. Josh Smith pitched in 17 points and six rebounds while Kyle Singler added 15 points in 21 minutes off the bench.

But despite the big performances from Detroit’s forwards, all eyes were on its new point guard. In his first game back in Milwaukee since being shipped to Detroit this offseason, Brandon Jennings finished with 17 points and 11 assists – excellent numbers on the surface, but Jennings shot just 4-of-16 from the floor and committed six turnovers. Even before tip-off, he was, predictably, serenaded with boos from the sparse BMO Harris Bradley Center crowd, but Jennings did not engage with the crowd and kept his mercurial demeanor in check for the most part.

The Bucks once again suffered from an acute inability to put the ball in the basket, struggling to a 39.6 percent night from the field. After sitting out Tuesday’s contest, Ersan Ilyasova caught fire early, scoring 16 points in the first half en route to finishing with 22 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes off the bench. Khris Middleton, one of three starters in double-figures, scored 14 points, while Brandon Knight and John Henson each added 12. Henson also tacked on two assists, two steals and three blocks.

O.J. Mayo’s inconsistent play continued, as he scored just seven points in 23 minutes. Mayo sat out much of the first half when Milwaukee’s second unit – including… GIANNIS – went on a run in the second quarter to propel the Bucks to a 50-45 halftime lead.

Milwaukee trailed 26-19 after a turnover-filled first quarter for both teams. The Bucks took advantage of Ilyasova’s shooting in the second quarter before surrendering the lead permanently in the third quarter, which Detroit won 35-17. The Bucks closed the deficit to within six with 2:30 remaining in the final period but were unable to get any closer, despite giving the “Hack-a-Drummond” strategy a shot.

With the Bucks now starting a new streak, here are a few notes from Wednesday:

Giannis Watch: Antetokounmpo tied a career high (set Friday vs. Boston) with 28 minutes played. He saw extended action in the first half and once again contributed across the board, finishing with six points, six rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. It’s tough not to get excited about the kid when he’s on the floor making plays on both ends. He even connected with Miroslav Raduljica on a grossly dysfunctional pick-and-roll in the fourth quarter that ended with Giannis falling out of bounds. So there’s that.

Mayo Quiet: O.J. Mayo continued his inconsistent ways, scoring fewer than 10 points for the sixth time in nine games. He put up 19 in Tuesdays loss and 22 in Saturday’s victory but cannot seem to find his groove if he’s not hitting his shots early. Mayo played sparingly in the first half and appeared disengaged, unable to pick his spots for much of the night.

No Nate: Despite the relatively poor play of both Brandon Knight and Gary Neal (combined 7-of-22 from the field), Nate Wolters remained planted on the bench for the third straight game. With Milwaukee’s backcourt now completely healthy, Wolters’ spot in the rotation is virtually non-existent. However, if Knight, Neal and Luke Ridnour continue to be ineffective, Drew may be more willing to give the rookie another shot.

Caron Sits: The team has been suspiciously coy regarding Butler’s status. He’s missed the past two games now with knee soreness, but Milwaukee has not provided updates on his status. Stand by for now, I guess.

Large Men: Both Josh Harrellson and Miroslav Raduljica saw playing time, so that was kind of cool. For Miroslav it’s a rarity, but Harrellson has earned minutes in each of Detroit’s last nine contests. He played just three minutes in this one, though, which is probably the maximum amount of time someone nicknamed “Big Jorts” should be on the floor.

I’m Suspicious: According to ESPN.com’s box score, 12,835 people attended this game. First of all, absolutely not. There is no way that’s even remotely close (see photo). I’m assuming that figure refers to the quantity of tickets sold, so apparently about 12,800 people bought tickets to this game and didn’t show up. I demand a recount.

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Topics: Andre Drummond, Giannis, Greek Freak, Greg Monroe, Milwaukee Bucks

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