Big is better than bad: Pistons 105 – Bucks 98

So much size in Detroit. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
So much size in Detroit. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
98 Milwaukee Bucks
John Henson, PF 30 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | -15

He’s so thin and looked so powerless next to Andre Drummond. He led the Bucks in rebounding because someone had to, but he’s got quite a ways to go physically if he’s going to play center against guys like Drummond every night. It would have been interesting to see how Henson and Larry Sanders fared against these two, so at least someone with comparable athleticism could work with Henson.

Khris Middleton, PF 20 MIN | 5-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | -15

He was 4-5 from deep. That brings him up to 49% from 3-point range on the season on 43 attempts. He came into the league with a reputation as a guy who could create and execute on midrange shots, so his ability to expand his range has been impressive. In terms of successfully executing on what he’s asked to do, he’s the most reliable player on the team from night to night. His minutes were deflated a bit on Wednesday as Larry Drew stuck with Giannis quite a bit. Both played well, so it’s tough to argue that one should have been playing over the other.

Ekpe Udoh, PF 22 MIN | 1-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 6 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -4

He opened up the game with a basket out of the post, but couldn’t connect on another field goal all night. His six blocks were nice, but Udoh and the rest of the Bucks big were so completely dominated, it’s hard to feel good about much of anything that they did. Ekpe turned his right ankle at some point, though I wasn’t clear on when that happened. Sounds like he’ll be evaluated on Thursday.

Brandon Knight, PG 20 MIN | 4-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 1 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -19

Like most of the rest of the starting lineup, Knight couldn’t pull it together on Wednesday, particularly in the first half. 10 of his 12 points came after halftime, as did all three of his assists. As more a slasher than a shooter, the dual presence of Greg Monroe and Drummond were difficult for him to negotiate.

O.J. Mayo, SG 23 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | -17

What’s even left to say? Some nights, he makes shots, other nights he doesn’t and there doesn’t seem to be much of a discernible pattern. Milwaukee needed more out of Mayo as a counter to the hefty Pistons front court and didn’t get what it needed.

Ersan Ilyasova, PF 37 MIN | 8-19 FG | 4-5 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | +9

He looked more like the Ersan of old than he has all season. Seven offensive rebounds, 2-6 from three, 4-5 from the line. He battled, but couldn’t offer much help on the defensive glass. It was cool to see him doing a little more off the dribble too, as a few of his baskets came via drives, while at least one came off a nice cut similar to the flash he had against the Celtics. Ersan seems to be adding a little bit to his game on offense as he attempts to regain his form of the past two seasons elsewhere.

Miroslav Raduljica, C 2 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -3

Played! In the third quarter even! There was an … interesting … sequence where Giannis made a sloppy attempt at a drive, but left the ball off to Raduljica, who used his off arm to clear a bit of space and then finished at the rim. He took a bad foul call on a clever play to clear space for a driving Luke Ridnour too and then came out and never returned. On the other end, his lack of foot speed was evident in the few possessions he played, but with everyone else struggling to defend and rebound, I suppose he may have been worth a bit more of a look.

Zaza Pachulia, C 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 2 PTS | -1

Sprained his foot and will be evaluated.

Luke Ridnour, PG 28 MIN | 4-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | +12

He helped give Milwaukee a spark in the first half, but couldn’t help them stick around long in the second half. The starters were the real issue on Wednesday and Luke helped bail them out early.

Gary Neal, SG 25 MIN | 3-11 FG | 1-1 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +10

Was Gary Neal.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG 28 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +8

Did a whole bunch of different things, as the box score indicates. Most of his rebounds came in some space, but his blocks were a product of some strong help defense around the rim. He also provided one nice look out of a fast break and had a really cool sequence where he helped force a turnover, then lead a break, then dished an assist, then rebounded a blocked shot and came down and finished an and-1.

Larry Drew

Bucks were overmatched and Drew tried his typical array of tricks: zone, different lineups, riding guys who played with energy. None of it was enough. He hinted that more changes could be coming to the starting lineup as he’s still looking for a group that’s got good chemistry and starts the game off stronger. Didn’t seem like there was much he could do tonight.

Three Things We Saw

  1. Drummond and Monroe combined for 36 rebounds, 14 of which came on the offensive end. They played a big role in Detroit’s 22 second chance points. Drew said after the game that he knew they were a bad matchup for Milwaukee’s big men and no obvious answers to their physicality were evident. Sometimes, the other team is just better.
  2. Both the Bucks and Pistons were on the second night of a back-to-back and had issues getting into Milwaukee due to some intense fog in the area the night before, but Drew said the Pistons didn’t seem to let it bother them. Ultimately, the Pistons had the two best players on the court whenever they had their bigs out there, so Milwaukee couldn’t provide much of an answer.
  3. Brandon Jennings was 4-16 with 17 points, 11 assists and six turnovers. He’s certainly benefitting from the presence of Drummond and Monroe and seems to love playing with them. It’s a dream situation for a point guard. He gave a salute to Sector 7 after making a basket in the fourth quarter that they did not take kindly to. He had some nice things to say about Milwaukee before the game and talked about his emotions during the game after the game.

    “I was real nervous,” he said after the game. “I mean, to be honest, I was real nervous in the beginning because I’m not used to being on this side. It was a lot of emotions going on, but once the second half started, I was able to settle down and just play basketball.”

Categories: Recaps

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  1. I have yet to watch Brandon Knight when he has had a good night. I did not get to watch the two good games he had in a row the other week. Can anyone speak to what is different between his good and bad games? Jeremy or anyone else what is different? Does he just finish at the rim better?

    • The difference is primarily in two factors (that I’ve noticed, at least).

      For one, his assist/turnover ratio: he’s had several games with 0 or 1 turnover lately, which is good to see considering his early struggles with giving the ball away.

      The other factor is his shooting. In the good games he had last week, I saw him making 15-18 footers with consistency and hitting threes. However (and we saw this last night) when his jumper isn’t falling, he doesn’t quite get to the rim enough to compensate for the poor shooting. His skill set indicates that he should be successful in that area, or at least better than point guards the Bucks have had in the past. But he could stand to make a more concerted effort to drive (and kick, if others are open) when he’s not making outside shots.

  2. Even though they get pounded from time to time, I still think this is better than last year. Not necessarily from a day-to-day “championship contending” perspective, but from a realistic, taking the longview, NBA basketball fan one.

    Every game last year felt like a referendum on the Bucks as a franchise, Milwaukee as a city, and the value of our fandom. We don’t have to worry about that any more. We can watch Giannis and Henson and Knight develop, root for an underdog in every game without any expectations, and see how this thing coalesces once Larry gets back and (hopefully) gets the proper amount of minutes as dictated by focused, energetic play. I was as excited as anybody else prior to the year, for whatever reason (OJ Mayo’s time to shine!, I guess), but I still find this entertaining.

    Sit back, relax, watch some basketball, see flashes while getting smoked…it’s fannnnnnnnnnntastic. And, if all goes well, these young guys will be playing like a unit at the end of the season and carry that over into the first year of Marcus Smart’s reign of terror.

  3. Note to Bucks- Henson is not a center. He can play there fine at times IF matched up against comparible sized big men. But shouldn’t be judged on how “well” he keeps guys 30-40 pound heavier than him off the boards. It’s just too much to ask. He did a nice job on a 265 pund Sullinger in Boston. But Detroit’s bigs were just too much.

    Maybe is was the rare night Drew SHOULD have started Pachulia or even the big Russian to bump and bang and let Henson play his true position. You can see in Henson’s body language he’s getting tired of beating his head againt monster centers.

    Upbeat note- Giannis is looking fantastic.

    • I think your comments are really good, rowe49.
      I’m concerned that if John tries to bulk up too much, he might lose a lot of his agility.
      Also, if Zaza and/or Miroslav are in there banging around, it might allow John to roam more freely for blocked shots and rebounds (same with Larry). At any rate, as Jeremy indicated with Miroslav, it might be worth trying something different like this.

  4. Rowe,Sfisch….I have noticed Hensons demeanor and clear frustration of being pounded by guy’s like Monroe/Drummond. Concerned about the toll it may take on him long term.With very slim chance of victory,I’d prefer Zaza or Rad to get the call for now.

    JP, the BUCKS are fun to watch as long as an effort is made to WIN. We all know that wins won’t come often this season,but can’t just play to lose.I believe that will hurt the young players more than help. Just an opinion.


    • I feel you. And I don’t think the guys on the floor are actively trying to lose, they’re just not very good right now, comparable to other professional teams. When the current franchise player and best thing going is a wide-eyed, still-growing 19-year-old who’s figuring this out as he goes, that’s to be expected.

      Which is one reason why the Larry Drew hiring may not have been the best idea (as opposed to someone like Kelvin Sampson), but here we are and Drew is doing the best he can. That’s all that can be asked for.

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