Detroit Pistons still can’t solve Milwaukee Bucks despite Jerami Grant’s excellence

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

The NBA’s schedulers didn’t do the Detroit Pistons any favors by having them play the Milwaukee Bucks three times in their first 11 games. 

They finally closed their three-game slate against the contending Bucks on Wednesday, similarly to the first two games. They trailed big — by 23 points midway through the second quarter. They closed the gap. And they lost by a respectable final tally, 110-101, at Little Caesars Arena.  

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Jerami Grant extended his streak of games with at least 20 points to 10, and finished with 22 points, four rebounds, two steals and a block. Svi Mykhailiuk scored a season-high 18 points, and Blake Griffin had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Mason Plumlee finished with seven points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double — 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. 

Svi Mykhailiuk finds his rhythm, and then some

With Luke Kennard missing most of last season with bilateral knee tendonitis, it was Mykhailiuk who stepped up to fill the void as a wing shooter. He shot 40.4% from behind the 3-point arc; his marksmanship earned an invitation to the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend.

Mykhailiuk entered this season with heightened expectations, but he has been in an extended slump. Entering Wednesday, he was shooting 33.8% overall and 29.5% from 3, both career lows. In his previous three games, he was just 6-for-26 overall and 5-for-22 from behind the arc. 

Wednesday was his best scoring night of the year, as he finished with a season-high 18 points (6-for-9 overall, 2-for-4 on 3s) in 18 minutes off the bench. Mykhailiuk takes a high percentage of his shots from 3, but he did most of his damage inside the arc on Wednesday. Considering that slump, it was a good sign to see him drive to the rim and find other ways to score.

Saben Lee re-enters the rotation

Derrick Rose missed his second straight game Wednesday with left knee soreness. With Killian Hayes also out with a torn hip labrum, it has given Dwane Casey an opportunity to get a look at his players on two-way deals, Frank Jackson and Saben Lee. 

Of the two, Jackson was the first off of the bench against the Bucks. But Lee ended up with a larger role, in the second game of his career. He flashed his quickness and athleticism on a steal from D.J. Augustin, a run in transition toward the end of the third quarter and a poster dunk attempt on Brook Lopez in the fourth quarter. 

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Lee and Jackson give Casey options in the backcourt that are at once similar and different. Casey sees Jackson as more of an off-guard, but injuries have forced him to play him at point. Jackson is a better defender right now, but is also more experienced. Lee also played a lot of shooting guard in college, but at this point, he too appears on the point guard track. Until Rose returns, we could see more back-and-forth between Jackson and Lee’s minutes. 

No Sekou Doumbouya

After consecutive games of playing about five minutes, Sekou Doumbouya sat out for the first time this season, despite the Pistons trailing the Bucks by at least 15 points for much of the night. 

Fans had high hopes for Doumbouya, the Pistons’ 2019 first-round pick, entering the season. He had a strong showing during preseason, and Casey has said that they were looking for Doumbouya to make a leap forward this season. 

Doumbouya has a lot of competition in front of him for minutes at forward. Grant and Griffin are the starters, with Grant often shifting to power forward when Griffin is on the bench. Saddiq Bey and Josh Jackson, who have both been better than Doumbouya this season, have played significant minutes at small forward. 

Griffin and Jackson have missed time this season, but all four have been healthy during the last three games. It’s part of the reason why Doumbouya logged 5:11 and 4:53 minutes in his past two games. Doumbouya also hasn’t carried over his preseason momentum when he has played, shooting 33.3% overall.

It’s tough to see an expanded role for Doumbouya for now, barring any injuries.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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