Detroit — Another bad shooting night, another loss. It’s becoming a recurring situation for the Pistons early in the season, and when they struggle to score, it’s hard for them to stay in games for very long.
In their 117-89 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night, they didn’t shoot well, and the Bucks were shorthanded but got good all-around production from Giannis Antetokounmpo (28 points, eight rebounds and nine assists) and the complementary players played their roles well.
Here are some other takeaways from the Pistons’ loss:
► Jerami Grant is playing at a high level. There are plenty of other issues on the offensive end, but Grant isn’t one of them. He’s still able to find his shot anywhere on the court, and he was effective and efficient, shooting 8-of-13 from the field for 21 points. He found his rhythm from beyond the arc, going 4-of-8, even with a tough matchup against Giannis Antetokounmpo on both ends.
Grant had been getting a ton of isolation calls for him on offense, so the scoring is going to come with an increased number of touches. The difference Tuesday was that he was scoring off catch-and-shoot opportunities and looked a lot more comfortable in the offense. That might be the one bright spot that the Pistons can lean on.
► Cade Cunningham is coming along — slowly. After going 1-of-8 in his debut, Cunningham went 2-of-14 on Tuesday, and he had some good looks at the basket, but the shots simply didn’t fall. It’s still very early in his rookie season and it’s not time to panic about the initial shooting slump.
He was able to get into the paint and to create some opportunities for his teammates, with three assists, which was another positive. There were other instances where the shots didn’t fall, or the recipient couldn’t handle the pass that would have led to more assists. The numbers are important, but at least at this juncture, it’s more about the comfort level and the feel that he has.
► The offense is stagnant with variety. There are huge lulls where the Pistons seem to rely on 3-point shooting — and when those shots aren’t falling, everything looks ugly. The Pistons shot 35% as a team last season, and even through their struggles, they became a better shooting team as the season wore on.
Saddiq Bey was a find and Frank Jackson and others provided some needed scoring from beyond the arc. This season, they’ve been alarmingly slow to find their shooting rhythm, and it’s hard not to be frustrated by that. Casey’s offense is predicated on creating good looks from 3-point range — and they’re getting those looks — but they’re simply not making those shots.
► Killian Hayes is taking forward steps. It’ll get lost in the shuffle of another poor offensive performance, but Hayes is starting to look better on the offensive end. He finished 3-of-7 from the field, but more importantly, 2-of-4 on 3-pointers. His best play of the game was a sidestep 3-pointer while being guarded by Antetokounmpo.
It’s still baby steps that he’s taking, but he’s finding his shot from different spots on the court, and eight points, three rebounds and four assists is actually pretty good production for him. Again, the assist numbers would be higher with more made shots, but that will come as they get an offensive rhythm.
► Giannis had a night. There’s not much that a defense can do when Antetokounmpo gets into a good offensive surge and starts hitting jump shots and 3-pointers. He started with eight points in the first few minutes of the game, and he didn’t relent. The Pistons seemed to have a good game plan for defending the former MVP, but keeping him out of the lane isn’t enough, especially when his jump shot is falling.
The Pistons tried to pack the paint and when Antetokounmpo passed the ball, his teammates hit the shots, leading to his nine assists. It wasn’t the regular starting lineup for the Bucks, but any team that is hitting its shots and only having to lean on its star in short spurts is going to have a good night.