HEADLINE

Pistons aim to halt Bucks’ domination

Field Level Media

January 12, 2021 at 9:07 pm.

NBA schedulers did the Detroit Pistons no favors by pitting them against the Milwaukee Bucks three times in their first 11 games.

Milwaukee had won the past 11 meetings, including in the playoffs, entering the season. The Bucks extended that streak to 13 with two home wins over the Pistons last week.

Detroit will try to halt its skid when it hosts Milwaukee on Wednesday night. The Pistons allowed 125 and 130 points in the first two meetings.

They rallied from 23 points down for a 110-105 overtime victory over Phoenix on Friday, then lost 96-86 to Utah on Sunday. The Jazz scored the first nine points and never trailed.

“We’ve got to pick it up at both ends,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We’ve got to be consistent. One night, it’s our offense, one night it’s our defense. I thought last week our offense was clicking and our defense was not clicking. … I thought (Sunday) after the first quarter our defense was as solid as it’s been (all season).”

Detroit made more roster changes than any team during the offseason and now is dealing with injuries. Lottery pick and starting point guard Killian Hayes is out indefinitely with a hip injury. His backup, sixth man Derrick Rose, missed Sunday’s game with a sore knee.

That predictably led to a season low in points, as the team shot 33.3 percent from the field against the Jazz.

It resulted in Detroit’s eighth loss in 10 outings this season.

“I expected some unbalanced play,” Casey said. “A lack of chemistry, a lack of togetherness for our team. There’s a lot of bright spots, but we’ve just got to bring it all together as a unit, as a team, at both ends of the floor.”

The biggest bright spot has been the offensive contributions of Jerami Grant. In his first six seasons in the league, he never averaged more than 13.6 points per game. In his first season with the Pistons, he’s averaging 25.1.

Grant established a career high with 31 points against the Bucks last Wednesday, then matched it two days later against the Suns.

That won’t matter if the Pistons fail to contain Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time league Most Valuable Player scored 43 points in 36 minutes in the teams’ first meeting this season. He scored 25 points in 28 minutes in the rematch two nights later.

Antetokounmpo got into foul trouble in Milwaukee’s game against Orlando on Monday. He picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter with the Bucks leading by just four. Antetokounmpo hit a 3-pointer and set up Bobby Portis for another 3 to lift his team to an eight-point advantage.

“I had five fouls, but I was just trying to play the game, go downhill and get my teammates involved,” he said.

Antetokounmpo then retreated to the bench, but the Bucks pulled away to a 121-99 victory.

“I thought he made two big plays and got us to a point where we could maybe give him a break and just see what happens,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Then the guys stepped up and made a lot of plays and we got some separation.”

After a slow start, the Bucks have won five of their past six games.