Anything less would be a huge disappointment for this Pistons squad. Yes, only thirteen games have been played. And yes, there's still a long way between here and there. But so far, the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is better than it has been in years, which means every single game matters.
Games like this - against a division rival that's playing poorly - are winnable and need to be won.
Prior to the season, the Milwaukee Bucks were part of the Playoff conversation. Not a shoe in, certainly, but a team that would be expected to compete for the sixth, seventh, or eighth seed. So far, though, it's been ugly in Milwaukee.
Other than Greg Monroe, almost nothing is going right for the Bucks.
A year ago, they were among the league's elite defenses, second only the the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors in points allowed per one hundred possessions. This year, they are dead last.
The perimeter play has been as mess. I'm not sold on Michael Carter-Williams as an NBA point guard anywhere, but he's definitely the wrong fit here. Former Piston Khris Middleton still has his stroke from deep, but everywhere else not so much.
And they're coming off two whoopings from the Cavs and Pacers -- 115-100 and 123-86 (!!!) respectively.
Greg Monroe has been good, though, and Jabari Parker has some promise. So, there's that.
Keys to the Game
Feed the Moose: Wait, that's not right. Old habits, I guess.
Contain the Moose: Greg Monroe is a good player and currently the Bucks' best player by quite a bit. He's still a double-double machine (sixteen points and just shy of ten boards), his improved free throw shooting from a season ago seems to have stuck, and in spite of his teammates' struggles, he's actually assisting at a higher rate than he ever did in Detroit. On paper, Andre Drummond should have the edge here, but we've all seen how crafty Moose can be in the post. Stop him, and the chances of winning are good.
Run in transition: I've been on this soapbox since the preseason, and I'm not getting off of it anytime soon. The Pistons have dynamic players in the fast break - Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and a trailing Andre Drummond - but they have not yet been maximized. In addition to being terrible defensively so far, the Bucks are also playing at the NBA's slowest pace. The Bucks' poor shooting and bad defense combined with the Pistons' dominance glass work and advantage in transition should work in our favor.
Let Reggie go ham: On paper, the Bucks should be a good defensive team, but games are not played on paper. Reggie should have a one-on-one advantage against the Bucks' point guards, and as much as I've been his fan, Greg Monroe will have a hard time covering the Reggie-Drummond pick-and-roll. Reggie - and thus the Pistons - is at his best when he's attacking relentlessly,
Is Greg Monroe destined to be the best player on nothing but bad teams?