If someone were to tell you the Detroit Pistons would head West and take out the then undefeated Los Angeles Clippers, follow that performance up with a win against the Golden State Warriors (on the second night of a back to back, mind you) and stumble in defeat to a hungry Los Angeles Lakers team, would you have taken it? No need to answer that question.
Yes, a clean sweep would have been nice, but a win against the best team of this decade on their home court, and a solid W against a should-be playoff team in the stacked Western Conference, is no small potatoes.
This is not last year’s Pistons. They’re healthy, hungry, and if they keep playing at this level, there is no reason they could not compete for the No. 4 or 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. Detroit now starts a five-game homestand (versus mostly middling competition) with a game against the 4-4 Milwaukee Bucks.
Who are the Bucks?
We all know the Bucks are long, athletic, and have one of the top-10 players in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo entering his prime. And if you didn’t know that already, go re-watch some of his early season performances, as he’s averaging a herculean 31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block a game.
But what else do we know about them?
The Bucks currently possess a top-10 offense, averaging 106.1 points per 100 possessions, and are shooting an outstanding 39 percent from three, even though they aren’t hoisting up that many on a nightly basis (27.3 three-point attempts per game, good for No. 20 in the NBA).
Head Coach Jason Kidd wants them to be a defensive-oriented team, but they’re currently not living up to those standards, as they’re allowing 107.8 points per 100 possession, which is good for No. 24 in the league. They are also allowing their opponents to shoot 41 percent from three and 47 percent from the floor, which is not good.
Although they possess plenty of length, they’re not that big, rolling out a thin starting front court of Thon Maker, Giannis and Tony Snell. They don’t rebound well, only averaging 37.9 rebounds per game (dead last in the league), and they aren’t a shot-blocking team either (No. 22 in the NBA in blocks per game with 3.9).
With all that being said, it’s early in the season, and you should expect their defensive numbers to trend upwards. Back to that Giannis guy. He’s really good - good enough to be the early-season MVP favorite - and definitely good enough to snatch a win all on his own. He’s a matchup nightmare: The Pistons have no one on the roster capable of giving him trouble on both ends of the floor.
The Starting Match-Ups
Reggie Jackson vs. Malcolm Brogdon
Reggie is still on this team, and will likely remain on this team all season, no matter what Eric Bledsoe trade rumors have come to light. He’s upped his production from 14.5 points per game last season, to 16.4 this season, and from 5.2 assists a game to 6.0, all while being utilized at a lower usage rate. Reggie this season has been a game-changer, and while Brogdon is a solid rotation player, he’s not quite at Reggie’s caliber.
Avery Bradley vs. Khris Middleton
Bradley is still getting acclimated with the Pistons, but with every game, he’s looking more and more comfortable. He’s a far better defender than Middleton, and currently a better long distance shooter too. Bradley’s averaging 40 percent from three this season, Middleton only 25 percent. And while Middleton’s improved production is noteworthy (he’s averaging what would be a career-high 19.5 points a game), Bradley’s all-around game is more valuable.
Stanley Johnson vs. Tony Snell
Tony Snell was signed to hit threes, defend, and play solid team basketball. That’s exactly what he’s doing, averaging 10 points per game, on 51 percent shooting from distance and 55 percent from the floor. Stanley Johnson has looked great these past few games, and has clearly turned the corner after his performance in the season opener. He’s averaging a career high 8.6 points per game, and is also chipping in 3.5 rebounds per game. Both of these players are playing their roles well.
Tobias Harris vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Tobias has been BALLIN’, but let’s not go there.
Andre Drummond vs. Thon Maker
Drummond is a new offensive player. He’s only averaging 1.3 post-up field goal attempts per game, compared to 4.6 post-up attempts last season. 42 percent of his field goals were 3-10 feet away from the basket last season - that figure has dramatically decreased to 23 percent this season. Drummond is embracing his new role, and it’s paid off for the Pistons. He’s averaging a staggering (and unsustainable?) 70 percent from the free throw stripe, and his attempts has dipped to only 2.5 a game, which is good! He’s still the best rebounder on the planet, and while Thon is a solid prospect, who has given Drummond fits in the past, this new and improved Drummond takes the cake.
Detroit 108, Milwaukee 100