Detroit − Another poor defensive effort in the first half led to another disappointing loss for the Pistons.
Last week, it was against the Chicago Bulls in Paris. This time, it was against the Milwaukee Bucks inside Little Caesars Arena on a night when the team honored the life and legacy of the late Bob Lanier, who played for both franchises.
The matchup was already unfortunate for the Pistons, who were short-handed without Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart due to shoulder injuries. To make matters even worse, the Bucks had a full roster and welcomed back their two All-Stars in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
Antetokounmpo dominated with a double-double with 29 points, 12 rebounds and four assists to lead the Bucks to a 150-130 victory over the Pistons.
It was uglier than the final score indicated and the loss marked the third time this season that the Bucks have defeated the Pistons after previous wins on their home floor in Milwaukee on Oct. 31 and Nov. 2.
The defeat also makes the Pistons winless against Central Division opponents with a record of 0-8. The Pistons are also 0-11 against the Atlantic Division and 4-22 against the Eastern Conference overall.
The Bucks raced out to a 28-8 lead five minutes into the first quarter, which included conversions on 11 of their first 12 shots. They led by as many as 33 points and maintained control of the entire game despite an offensive surge by Pistons veteran Bojan Bogdanovic.
Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 33 points, 20 of which came in the third quarter. He was one of the only consistent scoring options available for Detroit since he was able to create his own scoring opportunities. He entered one of his signature zones on the offensive end in the third quarter as he drained five consecutive 3-pointers.
Jalen Duren added a career-high 23 points and 14 rebounds. Saddiq Bey had 18 points. Hamidou Diallo scored 11 points off the bench.
Here are some other takeaways from the Pistons’ loss on Monday:
Giannis returns from injury: There have been several instances this season of a team’s star player either resting or making their return from injury against the Pistons. The latter was the case on Monday as Giannis Antetokounmpo was available for the first time in the Bucks’ last five games. There was no rust, either. The two-time MVP was in postseason form. Against the shorthanded Pistons, he led the charge early. He drew two fouls on Isaiah Livers three minutes into the game. Antetokounmpo scored seven of Milwaukee’s first 15 points within the first three minutes and had 20 points in the first quarter alone. It was all Milwaukee needed to take a 49-24 lead into the second quarter, allowing him to earn pockets of rest for the majority of the game. Antetokounmpo also got to the free throw line at will, finishing 11-of-17 from the stripe.
Defensive breakdowns: There were a plethora of defensive lapses by the Pistons, especially in the first half. Most of those miscues could simply be attributed to not having their best defenders (Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart) available, but a lot of it was purely based on the lack of effort on that side of the floor. The Bucks finished with 12 offensive rebounds, and 17 second-chance points, meaning they scored on the majority of those extra opportunities. The Pistons are at their best when they’re able to get stops to create easier scoring opportunities in transition. By halftime, the Bucks scored 83 points, which marked a season-high for most points allowed by Detroit since they gave up 72 points in the first half to the New York Knicks on Oct. 21. Fans inside the arena weren’t impressed either. One fan was shown on the jumbotron sleeping in the third quarter. Most left during the fourth quarter.
No Killian: Hayes was a game-time decision due to a shoulder injury he sustained in Paris against the Bulls, but was ruled out shortly before tip-off. WIthout their starting point guard, the Pistons struggled to find consistency within their offense. The impact was also felt on the defensive end as Jrue Holiday picked apart their defense with his scoring and playmaking. Holiday, who was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week earlier that day, finished with 14 points and seven assists. Ivey started at point guard alongside Livers, Saddiq Bey, Bogdanovic and Jalen Duren — the Pistons’ 18th different starting lineup this season. The rookie guard facilitated the ball well, finishing with 12 points, four rebounds, 11 assists but also committed four turnovers.
Bob Lanier tribute night: Monday’s game against the Bucks was dedicated to Pistons legend Bob Lanier, who died at the age of 73 after a short illness last May. The team warmed up in blue t-shirts with Lanier’s name and jersey number displayed on the front. The entire coaching staff wore Lanier lapel pins, which were also given to fans in attendance. There were tributes throughout the game from Lanier’s former teammate and ex-Mayor of Detroit Dave Bing, Pistons greats Isiah Thomas and Rick Mahorn, along with the team’s longtime television announcer George Blaha. At halftime, there was a presentation which included a brief video narrated by Blaha, and Lanier’s family was recognized at midcourt. They were escorted by Pistons greats Bing, James Edwards, Lindsay Hunter and Ben Wallace.