Pistons vs. Bucks preview: Two teams playing for two very different reasons late in the year

Detroit Bad Boys

The stakes couldn’t be different for the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks.

One, the Pistons, are at the very bottom of the NBA standings. The other, Milwaukee, is on the rise and looking to start playing its best basketball in the next two weeks as it prepares to mount another run at the NBA title.

Game Vitals

When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Bally Sports
Odds: Pistons +17.5


It feels like the Pistons are doomed tonight — and they probably are — but there’s hope for a competitive game. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful, so we could see Milwaukee without their MVP candidate.

Now, the Pistons would still be left to deal with Jrue Holiday and a resurgent Khris Middleton… but still, no Giannis! That’s the bright side if you wanted a potentially competitive game. That said, the Bucks are still 17.5-point favorites tonight, which is a staggering, if not accurate, number.

I’ll be watching Middleton, who has dealt with a plethora of injuries this year but has really been surging over the past 10 games. The former (and maybe future?) Pistons wing has put up 17.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on 46/39/87 shooting in that span.

Milwaukee has been the top team in the Eastern Conference this season despite a down year from Middleton. I think a healthy and productive Middleton in the playoffs makes the Bucks your odds-on favorite. It’s like making a blockbuster trade right before the playoffs, except the chemistry is perfect from the start.

For the Pistons, it’s another great opportunity to see how James Wiseman fares against one of those big teams at the top of the standings that Troy Weaver referenced after his acquisition. Sure, Giannis is out, but Brook Lopez may be the co-favorite for Defensive Player of the Year and will make life difficult on Wiseman, Jalen Duren and Marvin Bagley III.

The same defensive menace awaits Killian Hayes and Jaden Ivey in Holiday. One of those guys is going to have a hellish night. I’m guessing it’s going to be Ivey because it seems like teams are content letting Hayes do his thing since even a good Killian game isn’t going to decide a game.

The Pistons probably aren’t winning, but losing by single digits would be a moral victory.

They haven’t lost by fewer than 12 points in any of their five losses on this current skid. The losses are whatever, but what this team lacks that the lovable losers in 2019-20 had was the ability to scratch and claw and get these losses competitive near the end of the year.

This version is just getting its butt kicked on the nightly.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (16-58)

Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley III, James Wiseman

Milwaukee Bucks (53-21)

Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen, Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez

Question of the Day

Isaiah Livers returned from injury against the Raptors, what would you like to see from him in these final few games?

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