The Detroit Pistons are hoping 2019 starts off a hell of a lot better than 2018 ended. Unfortunately, while the calendar might have turned nothing about their team is any different. The same roster, the same coaches, the same budgetary limitations that prevent them from making any changes. They will be facing the Milwaukee Bucks, who managed to actually completely remake their team in one season with some of the same ingredients Detroit attempted — a new coach with an emphasis on spacing and the value of the 3, cheap veteran additions and relying on their most talented player to build their team around. Whereas little of those alterations seem to have worked for Detroit, they are working in spades for Milwaukee.
When: 8 p.m. EST
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
Everyone focuses on the five-out offense that Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer prefers, but Milwaukee’s success isn’t strictly because of the 3-pointer. In fact, they are actually a middling 3-point shooting team. The Bucks rank 22nd in the NBA in 3-point percentage while attempting the second-most 3s in the NBA.
So how does a team that shoots a ton of shots they aren’t particularly adept at making have the second-best true shooting percentage in the NBA? It’s all about what that perimeter space affords the Bucks in the paint. Or, more specifically, how star Giannis Antetokounmpo uses that space to get whatever he wants at the rim.
The Greek Freak is all strength, quickness and limbs. He also has the handle to blow by his defender from 18 feet out, take two steps and then somehow dunk the ball with authority.
The Bucks shoot nearly 35 shots in the restricted area per game and convert at a league-best 67.4 percent. Combine that with the team’s absolute allergy to attempting low-percentage shots in the paint outside the restricted area and from mid-range, and even a team not hitting its 3s can have an explosive offense.
Detroit is going to need to employ some Jordan Rules-style defense against Giannis and force anyone but Milwaukee’s star to beat them. Throw multiple defenders, sag off other players to cut off access to the paint and Andre Drummond must protect the rim without fouling.
Speaking of Drummond, he will need to dominate the glass for the Pistons to have a chance in this game. Detroit’s only marginally effective because it is able to control the boards at both ends. Milwaukee, however, leads the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage. Meaning that it won’t be as easy as usual for Drummond to get those put-back attempts.
And, as ever, the Pistons are only able to go as far as Reggie Jackson will carry them. Jackson’s role has been diminished since Blake Griffin’s arrival, but Griffin can only do so much, and it’s painfully clear the Pistons need their point guard to help grease the offense and get things moving.
Eric Bledsoe can run hot and cold, and if he is having an off night and Jackson is aggressive and hitting a couple 3s then Detroit could make this game competitive.
Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Reggie Bullock, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
Question of the Day
What is your New Year’s resolution as a Detroit Pistons fan?