What a difference a year makes, huh? This time last year, the Pistons were 27-22, coming off of a 126-121 overtime win against these same Milwaukee Bucks. Rip Hamilton dropped 38 off the bench. Ramon Sessions torched us for 44 points and 12 assists, thanks to staunch defense by the undersized guard whose name shall not be uttered here. Rodney Stuckey, on the other hand, had just hit his pseudo-rookie wall-- after averaging 16 ppg, 4rpg and 6 rpg for the last two months... not to mention 50% shooting.
A year later, Milwaukee is an entirely different team, led by rookie Brandon Jennings and a renewed Andrew Bogut, who only made it to one of four games against the Pistons last year. Going into tonight's game, the season series is even at 1/1-- but Milwaukee sees this game as a must win. If the Bucks can get a win tonight in Detroit, they'll move up to the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, provided Miami loses its 6th game in a row tonight to Houston.
Game Tips at 8:00 pm ET
Detroit Pistons 17-32 (5-18 road, -5.3 margin)
Milwaukee Bucks 23-26 (16-7 home, +0.1 margin)
Milwaukee hasn't lost a home game yet in 2010. They've won 7 in a row, and a win tonight would be their first 8 game home win stretch since 2004. If the Bucks have lost anything, however, it is the mojo of rookie Brandon Jennings. He's been a lot more volume and a lot less scoring of late, averaging 30% from the field so far in February. While Jennings has been faltering, the Bucks have been winning by balanced scoring beyond their backcourt. In the last six games, Milwaukee's frontcourt players have combined for 61ppg, which accounts for 60% of the team's total scoring. Must be nice...
It is surprising, however to see that much of this scoring is coming from the unlikely cast of Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova and Hakim Warrick. The three have taken turns putting up 20+ point games, carrying the team from the 3 and 4 positions.
There is one thing that the Bucks and the Pistons do have in common-- an abysmal shooting percentage. The Bucks and the Pistons are tied for the second worst shooting percentage in the league (behind New Jersey, of course) at 43.4%. The Bucks fare a bit better than the Pistons, however, as they connect on four more 3-point attempts per game.
Milwaukee earns their superiority on the other end of the court. Their defense is the 8th best in the league, a sole statistic that is helping them claw their way into the 8th seed, which is in their sights tonight.
Keys for Detroit
Keep the Ball in Jennings' Hands - He's shooting 30% this month, 32.4% last month. If you're a betting man (or woman, Kriz), it isn't likely for him to change that tonight. So protect the passing lanes and force him to his right. He's terrible from the right side of the court, and almost as bad around the hoop (35% under the basket in the last five games). If anyone on the Bucks roster is going to take a shot, we want it to be Jennings, and we want him to shoot from the right or to try and penetrate.
Defend the Forwards - The Bucks are getting the bulk of their scoring from the 3 and 4 positions, where Delfino, Mbah a Moute, Warrick and Ilyasova are trading the hot hand. Tayshaun Prince and Jonas Jerebko are going to have their hands full tonight. If there was ever a game to give Austin Daye some burn, it's this one-- beyond Bogut, Milwaukee's frontcourt will not have the weight to push Daye around, and his length could help blunt the Bucks' forward force.
Rebound the Basketball - Man, we were a pretty solid rebounding force for a while there. Milwaukee is pretty apt on the glass, the 6th best in the league. Those Jennings misses will only help if we can corral the basketball.
Question of the Game
I didn't notice, but apparently the "Drama" section is no longer in these write-ups. And here I was all excited to talk about the horrific return of Jerry Stackhouse. I digress, that was a solid signing by Milwaukee-- what better veteran to help Jennings out of his shooting funk than the pillar of efficiency that is J Stack?
Help yourself to two scoops of BrewHoop. Rhymtastic.