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Pistons vs Bucks preview: Detroit’s winter slog continues against the best offense in the NBA

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The Pistons head to Milwaukee to dress the Bucks

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons’ brutal December schedule continues tonight in Milwaukee against the Bucks, who are second in the East. This is a good test for the Pistons (you’re gonna see that phrase a lot before the year ends), which means a win is anything that wouldn’t result in the Player’s Only broadcast team (consider yourself lucky if you weren’t forced to endure that) openly calling a switch to another, more interesting and competitive game.

Moral Victories!

Game Vitals:

When: December 5, 2018, 8:00 p.m. EST
Where: Fiserv Forum (....really?), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass

Analysis:

So, the Bucks are pretty good at basketball.

Milwaukee is leading the league in NetRTG by nearly two full points (9.6 to Toronto’s 7.7), mostly on the strength of their league-best ORTG (115.5). That is a large number, but we already kinda knew that was what was going to happen under new coach Mike Budenholzer. The offensive stats fall in line from there: Milwaukee is second in the league in true shooting percentage, first in effective field goal percentage, top-5 in pace, and top-10 in assist percentage.

More surprisingly, though, the Milwaukee Bucks are first in defensive rebounding percentage. That was one of their (many) weaknesses under Jason Kidd (they were LAST in the league in DREB percent in 2017-18), and with largely similar personnel, under a coach not traditionally known for his attentiveness to the glass, they’ve turned that train all the way around.

That matters to Detroit because the Pistons are top-5 in offensive rebounding percentage - Andre Drummond dominating the offensive glass is is one of the axes they attack teams on that few other teams can match. Andre has traditionally had a lot of success against the Bucks in the recent past because they were so bad at defensive rebounding. If Milwaukee can contain Andre on the glass and take that element of the game away from Detroit, it could be a long night.

The Bucks started the season 7-0 and are now 15-7, which maths out to 8-7 in their last 15 games. They’ve lost to the Phoenix Suns (Detroit beat them) and New York Knicks (Detroit beat them) in that period, so it’s not like they’ve only been losing to world-beaters. However, they do have wins over the Warriors (in Oracle), Nuggets (twice, home and road), and Trail Blazers (by FORTY-THREE) in that period, so it’s not like they’ve been playing like crap, either. If the Bucks are falling into the trap of competing based on perceived opponent strength, the Pistons’ 13-8 record is enough to be taken seriously (... unfortunately?).

Piling on, the Pistons’ best wing player, Reggie Bullock, is out tonight, not even travelling with the team to Milwaukee. We don’t know Dwane Casey’s starting lineup for tonight at this time, but this is what he said yesterday:

That sounds an awful lot like “Bruce Brown, starter” to me. Casey continues to find success while doing things that make me scratch my head. I refuse to complain about winning, but I will not refrain from the head-scratching.

Last, but certainly not least, as we discussed on the DBB Podcast this week (subscribe! rate! share!), Giannis Antetokounmpo (almost got it that time) is playing at an MVP level, was named Player of the Month for October and November a couple days ago, and is just generally ridiculous to watch on a nightly basis as long as he is not playing your team. If this game gets out of hand, just sit back and enjoy the freakish shit he’s doing without thinking about what it means for Detroit too much.

Projected Lineup:

Detroit Pistons (13-8):
Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Milwaukee Bucks (15-7):
Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez

Community Question:

Who would Detroit’s Player of the Month be?