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Pistons vs Bucks preview: Expecting to even season series in Milwaukee

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A crucial game Saturday as the Pistons look to make up ground in the Eastern Conference playoffs hunt.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons come into this game on different form guides.  The Pistons are surging, having gone 12-3 in the PSE, including impressive wins over the likes of playoff candidates in Toronto, Dallas, San Antonio and Cleveland. The Bucks, meanwhile, have gone 4-5 in January, including a quick trip across the Atlantic to face the New York Knicks in the NBA's traditional London game, which the Bucks won 95-79.  The Pistons aren't too unfamiliar to the London outing, having made the trip in 2012.

Game Vitals

Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI

When: 7:30PM EST, Sat., Jan. 24, 2015

Watch: FSD, NBA TV

Exceptionally Detailed Analysis

Remember the time when we as Pistons fans were putting over/unders on losing margins? Well, I don't know about the masses, but my expectations of this team are now unrealistically high.  I'm talking consistent winning, playoffs, championships, drafting Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick in the '16 draft after a lopsided trade with the Lakers, the whole shebang.  This Pistons team is playing with a continuity that we haven't seen since the mid 2000s, and we all know what happened back then.

The Pistons bounced back from a nationally televised loss in Atlanta with a comfortable victory at The Palace against the Orlando Magic, 128-118.  Some fellow named Brandon Byron "The Dealer" "Swag" "Young Money" Jennings finished with a historic 24-point, 21-assist performance.  The last player to do so was Steve Nash in 2009, and the last Piston to do so was Isiah Thomas 30 years ago.  Jennings' 21 assists are also an NBA single game high this season, as well as a career high, surpassing the 18 he dished out vs. Phoenix last season.  However, the biggest difference between those two games is that the consistency was greater against the Magic.  Against the Suns last season, Jennings had 16 assists at the half, and 11 after quarter one, and his consistency waned as the match wore on.  Against Orlando, Jennings had 11 assists at the half, and 10 in the second half, flashing a consistency rarely seen from the mercurial point guard.  His play also made both Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond look exceptionally good, as all point guards should, as they both finished with solid double doubles, Monroe with 24 and 10, and Drummond with 26 and 17.

The Milwaukee Bucks come into this matchup suffering perhaps a bit of a hangover after their London trip.  They've lost both games since returning stateside, at home to both the Toronto Raptors and the Utah Jazz.  Their last game, against Utah, they lost 101-99, with Brandon Knight leading the way with 16 and Giannis Antetokounmpo adding 13 to go with 6 rebounds and a career high 5 steals.  However, perhaps due to the suspension of Larry Sanders, the Bucks were murdered inside by Enes Kanter, who had 23 points and 16 rebounds, while Rudy Gobert had 14 and 10 boards.  Derrick Favors didn't even play.  This is where the Pistons can take advantage, as the Bucks will likely roll with Zaza Pachulia at center, and in his advancing age (31 in February) and plodding nature (275 pounds), the athletic prowess of Andre Drummond should theoretically have a favorable matchup... theoretically.

When We Last Met

Nov. 28, 2014, Bucks won 104-88 (season series 2-1 MIL)

After taking the opening game of the season series, the Bucks have since won two, including this triumph in front of 13,127 people at The Palace of Auburn Hills the day after Thanksgiving.  Ersan Ilyasova did the damage, finishing with 22 points, and the Pistons perished by 16 despite the best efforts of Andre Drummond (26pts, 20reb) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21pts).

Players To Watch

Pistons: Brandon Jennings

It's been fun to watch lately, but Jennings will have to at least try to muscle up on defence against Brandon Knight, who is in the midst of a career year with the Bucks (18.2ppg, 4.2rpg, 5.1apg).  Jennings is a more dazzling player offensively, and a better fit for this team in terms of playmaking ability, but it'd be nice for him to roll into Milwaukee and drop another 55, wouldn't it?

Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo

I'll admit, I'm not totally on the hype train with the "Greek Freak".  I feel he's been overhyped to the point where people were drooling at the prospect of him playing PG during the summer league.  I'm not saying he's a bad player, and he does some things incredibly well, namely being disruptive on defense with his mile-long wingspan and his ability to be a one man fast break (Kyle take notes).  However, his numbers are incredibly bland (11.7ppg, 6.1rpg, 2.1apg in 28mpg) on average shooting splits, except for his atrocious long-ball percentage (.497, .185, .729).  He's still incredibly raw, but he may succumb to unrealistic expectations from a Milwaukee fanbase starved of relevancy.

Connections

-- Pistons G Brandon Jennings played for Milwaukee from 2009-13

-- Pistons F Caron Butler played for his hometown Bucks for half of the 2013-14 season

-- Pistons G Jodie Meeks was drafted 41st by Milwaukee in 2009 and spent one season there

-- Meeks and Bucks G Kendall Marshall played together for LA Lakers in 2013-14

-- Bucks G Brandon Knight and F Khris Middleton were both drafted by the Pistons, in 2011 and 2012 respectively, and played in Detroit until 2013 when they were traded along with Viacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings

-- Pistons asst. coach Charles Klask was an assistant under Bucks head coach Jason Kidd in Brooklyn last season

Score Prediction

Milwaukee are sneaky good this year, but we've been hot, and I think we'll square the series.  These are the types of games we need to win, especially with Charlotte dropping a game at Cleveland yesterday.

Detroit 114, Milwaukee 107

Lineup Prediction

Pistons: Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Singler, Monroe, Drummond

Bucks: Knight, Middleton, Antetokounmpo, Ilyasova, Pachulia

Injured/In Doubt

Pistons: Kyle Singler (broken nose, questionable)

Bucks: Inglis (ankle surgery), Marshall (torn ACL), Parker (torn ACL), Sanders (suspended - violation of NBA drug policy)

Community Question

Can Brandon Jennings one-up Klay Thompson's amazing game last night against Sacramento (52 points, 11 threes, NBA record 37 points in 3rd quarter)?