Is it just me, or does it feel like the Detroit Pistons play the Milwaukee Bucks once a week? In an abbreviated season of suck, you could at least hope for some variety...
Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST
Milwaukee Bucks: 10 - 11 (3 - 9 road)
Detroit Pistons: 4 - 20 (3 - 8 home)
If the Bucks win tonight, they're a .500 team. They've won three-in-a-row without Andrew Bogut, including an 8-point win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. Brandon Jennings has returned to rookie form, averaging over 20 points per game and getting his teammates involved. Drew Gooden is actually earning his contract. Rookie Jon Leuer is looking like a steal. Ersan Ilyasova is stretching defenses and rebounding. Lastly, Shaun Livingston is looking healthy, shooting well and helping distribute as a starter in Milwaukee's backcourt.
If the Bucks can hold on to the 8th seed and continue playing like they are now, they'll be the last team anyone wants to meet in the first round of the playoffs.
In the first two games, what has Detroit done well against Milwaukee? That story begins and ends with Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey. The Moose is shooting 71% against the Bucks, while the rest of the team is hitting only 35%. Combined, Monroe is averaging 24 points, 13 rebounds and 2 assists against Milwaukee but still managing a lower usage rate than Tayshaun Prince. Stuckey may not be shooting well against the Bucks, but the whistles have helped-- Stuckey is 7-7 on free throws in both games against Milwaukee this season.
On offense, feeding the Moose and letting Rodney drive are the two things that are working. Everything else... not so much.
On the other end of the court, Milwaukee's wings have had their way with Detroit like we're a drunk prom date. Brandon Jennings is matching Monroe's 24-point average while Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy and Ersan Ilyasova are driving Detroit mad from outside. As a team, Milwaukee is scoring 54% on perimeter shots against Detroit. They're connecting just about everywhere on the court, but the 3-point shooting is what has kept Detroit from being competitive in either game this season. Without further adieu, let's turn this data into strategy, yeah?
Keys of the Game:
FEED THE DAMNED MOOSE - Milwaukee has had no defense against Greg Monroe this season. If Detroit doesn't feed Monroe the ball and do it often, why even suit up to play? This is not rocket science. Larry Frank, I implore you to use your best offensive weapon tonight. I don't want to start dusting off that AFI title, Mr. 4-36. I'm watching you, lil Red.
Defend the perimeter at all costs - This might be a game to try and switch things up, starting with Stuckey, Daye and Jerebko on the wing. That advantage in size and length could cause the Bucks fits at the 3-point line. Defending 3-point shots is half of the battle, however, as dribble penetration has been another Pistons weakness vs. Milwaukee.
Memoirs of a Geishaun - Sit that fast-break-killing, never-passing, always-complaining, poor-shooting, never-gets-whistles clown. Detroit is better when he's not on the court, and they appear to have more fun without him too.
Question of the Game:
This is another winnable game across a stretch of six games to start February. After tonight, Detroit plays New Orleans, New Jersey twice and then Washington. What's your record prediction across that stretch? I'm not gonna shave my brow until it's over...