Milwaukee Bucks: Do the Pistons have any answer for Khris Middleton?

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 14: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 14: (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Game 1 raised the question of how much the Milwaukee Bucks’ stars will need to play, but if Khris Middleton is needed, do the Pistons have an answer?

As the Milwaukee Bucks ran away to a 35-point victory in Sunday’s Game 1 win over the Detroit Pistons, not one of their starters was forced to play more than 25 minutes on that night.

Even in a 1/8 matchup, that’s a luxury that’s rarely afforded to any team in a playoff setting.

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That fact leads to valid discussion about whether the Pistons have any answers or strategy that could keep them vaguely within range of Milwaukee, but it should also open up further consideration as to the individual matchups.

On that front, most of the obvious attention goes to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the impossible proposition he presents Detroit, and every other team, with, but the Pistons also have a problem in dealing with Khris Middleton.

Blake Griffin‘s absence, which could possibly extend across the remainder of the series, certainly changes plenty of the matchup dynamics in the series, but even at full strength Detroit wouldn’t have an obvious counter for Middleton.

The Pistons’ roster is undoubtedly at its weakest at the wing positions, with little by way of scoring or defense to offer the likes of Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond any real support.

Wayne Ellington was expected to provide a meaningful boost in that regard after he was acquired midseason on the buyout market, yet a 2-of-10 shooting performance coincided with a -41 in the box score in Game 1. Bruce Brown was in the Pistons’ starting lineup mostly for his defense, but was limited to just 12 minutes as he offered next to nothing on the other end of the floor.

On the bench, Glenn Robinson III and Langston Galloway also struggled on both ends, with Luke Kennard‘s 21 points offering the only real ray of hope for the Pistons on the night.

After a slow start, Middleton gradually heated up as the game progressed before ultimately finishing 4-of-7 from three-point range and finding an ominous groove from the Pistons’ perspective.

Bucks fans are well aware of the ups and downs and inconsistencies of Middleton’s season, and how he has struggled to adjust to the Bucks’ change in style and what it has meant for his role. But Middleton closed out the regular season in particularly strong fashion, and considering his outstanding playoff play last season, there’s real cause for optimism about his play.

Middleton’s final five games of the regular season produced averages of 25.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists, while shooting 52.1 percent from the field, 40 percent from deep, and 88.2 percent from the line.

With Detroit lacking the caliber of players that could provide a meaningful test for Middleton on either end, he should have plenty of joy in the games ahead. The matchup has been favorable for him throughout the season, having averaged just under 20 points on 51.2 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from three-point range.

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If Game 1 is a wider indicator of what’s to come in this series for the Bucks, it may well serve as a tune-up for the rounds ahead. A confident and in-form Middleton would be a major boost for Milwaukee before facing the challenges ahead, and there’s no reason to believe this Pistons series won’t set him up to be exactly that.