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Pistons vs Bucks preview: Antetokounmpo a big test for the new starting lineup

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Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock versus Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo? Yikes

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

There is precious little to be salvaged from the film of the last game between the Bucks and the Pistons, a 115-92 loss that wasn’t even THAT close. Detroit gets a chance to redeem itself tonight against a Milwaukee team that remains at the top of the Eastern conference.

Game Vitals:

When: December 17, 7 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass

Analysis

Let’s start with the bad:

  • Khris Middleton will play in this matchup, unlike the last time these two teams played.
  • MVP candidate and All-NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo also will play in this game.
  • The Bucks added another rotation-caliber guard to their arsenal about a week ago.
  • The Pistons are still down their normal backup point guard.
  • The Bucks are a better basketball team.

Ok, we’ve got that out of the way.

The new starting lineup of Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Blake Griffin, and Andre Drummond is sporting a shiny +33 NetRTG in their 16 minutes of action this season. Predictably, surrounding Blake Griffin with as much shooting as you can possibly muster has great results offensively.

On the other side, despite sporting the fifth-best DRTG in the league, the Bucks have trouble defending the perimeter. Milwaukee allows the second most three-point attempts per game (a shocking FORTY 3pa/g) in the league, and correspondingly, they allow most three-point makes per game (14.1) in the league.

All that is to say, if Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard combine to go something like 9-of-16 on threes tonight because the Bucks’ defense surrenders a bunch of open looks, the Pistons could be in good shape. It would help if Langston Galloway also threw in something like a 3-7 night from downtown, as well.

Defensively, Kennard and Bullock are just woefully unequipped to handle the Antetokounmpo - Middleton wing grouping. Personally, I would stay home on all the Bucks’ shooters, “allow” Giannis to score 40 points, “allow” Khris to get about 25 points, and make the other Bucks make shots to beat you. Suggestions on how to keep those two from wrecking the Pistons are welcome in the comments.

Along those lines, another aspect of the game to watch tonight is how Andre handles the Brook Lopez - Thon Maker pairing. Both Lopez and Maker are used as stretch bigs in Milwaukee’s system, and Dre has had success protecting the rim in the past few games because he has not had to worry about the likes of Aron Baynes and Cody Zeller hurting Detroit from behind the arc.

Lopez has cooled a little from his “Splash Mountain” start to the season, but is still shooting 36 percent from three on a whopping seven attempts per game for the Bucks. Maker is only shooting 2.7 threes a game, but he also has given Andre far more trouble than he’s normally worth. How Dwane Casey decides to employ Andre defensively tonight, and whether or not Andre displays the necessary effort to fulfill that assignment, will have a large say in how competitive this game.

Last but not least, the Pistons cannot afford to do this again:

If Blake Griffin has a monster game, the supporting cast HAS to step up and give the Bucks other options to worry about.

Projected Lineups:

Detroit (14-13):
Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Milwaukee Bucks (19-9):
Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, Tony Snell, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Prediction:

Bucks 120, Pistons 114