Coming off a tough loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Milwaukee Bucks continued their streak of games against the Central Division with an early matchup versus the Detroit Pistons.
With Giannis Antetokounmpo back in the lineup after missing the last game, the Bucks were back to full strength, but that did not mean they could overlook the Pistons. Despite having just four wins on the season, the Pistons could not be underestimated, as they've started to play much better lately. That proved true, as they put up a great fight against the Bucks, making them sweat until the end.
Ultimately, the Bucks managed to hold off Detroit with a final score of 141-135, and there were plenty of notable takeaways from the matchup.
Milwaukee Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons, but troublesome stats looms over them
A big reason why the Pistons managed to keep this one close was due to the contributions from the second unit. While every starter had a negative +/-, every single reserve had a positive mark, mainly due to that unit combining to score an astounding 85 points. Meanwhile, every Buck who came off the bench had a negative rating, and the four reserves combined to score just 18 points.
Milwaukee's bench couldn't hold a candle to Detroit's reserves, which is a trend that has popped up quite a bit throughout the season.
Detroit got 33 points out of Alec Burks, who was on an absolute heater. Seven of his nine made shots were from 3-point range, as he thrived with even a little bit of space. Rookie Ausar Thompson showed while he was picked so early in the draft with 22 points and nine rebounds. Newcomer Mike Muscala had 13 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting from downtown.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee's leading reserve was Pat Connaughton, who actually had a decent game with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Elsewhere, Bobby Portis had just four points on four shots, and the duo of Jae Crowder and Andre Jackson Jr. had a bucket each. This unit just couldn't combat the efforts of their counterpart, and that's been all too common this season.
To be clear, the Bucks are expected to lean on their starters, given how much star power that lineup possesses. Yet, they still need contributions off of the bench. Being outscored 85-18 cannot happen. These big imbalances have been on display all season.
Still, the Bucks managed to overcome this and get the win due to some heroics by the starting lineup. Damian Lillard had his best game in a Bucks jersey with 45 points, 11 assists, and five 3-point makes. Per Stat Muse, Lillard is the first player in franchise history to reach those numbers in a single game, and the Bucks needed all of it against the Pistons.
Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly clocked in a triple-double with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists. He started slow, but the Greek Freak really took off in the fourth quarter, where he had a game-high 13 points, shooting 4-of-5 from the floor. He had a tough go of it from the foul line, shooting just 11-of-22, but he made five of them in the fourth to help seal the deal.
Brook Lopez had a great all-around game with 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and a steal as he did a little bit of everything. The same goes for Khris Middleton, who had 17 points - nine in the fourth - five rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal. Malik Beasley made just one bucket from the outside, but he made four from 2-point range to finish with 11 points.
Ultimately, it wasn't the prettiest win against a four-win team, but a win is a win. These concerns with the bench are something to keep an eye on, and it will be interesting to see if the front office decides to address that approaching the upcoming 2024 NBA Trade Deadline.
Stay tuned for more Milwaukee Bucks analysis.