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Pistons' losing skid reaches 5 after setback to Bucks

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Milwaukee — The cracks are beginning to show in this carefully crafted facade to a Pistons season where it claims there's a new attitude but raising the same old issues.

Just like Stan Van Gundy couldn't escape using the number "19" Tuesday night.

It kept appearing in the Pistons' 98-86 loss to the surprising Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center, their fifth straight loss and eighth in nine games.

Nineteen offensive rebounds allowed by a team that supposedly begun to hang its hat on getting balls off the rim.

Nineteen turnovers from a team whose ball-handling skills were hailed as a strength by its coach after the morning shoot-around.

And two numbers Van Gundy failed to mention — 19 points in each quarter of the second half that saw the Bucks run away, delivering the second-largest losing margin for the Pistons in what's no longer a young season.

They were without point guard Brandon Jennings, who missed playing against his former team with a sprained left thumb.

Tweaks that were supposed to open things up, and did for Andre Drummond, as his 23 points and 10 rebounds was the lone bright spot in an otherwise miserable finish.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

"I have no idea. I'm not concerned," said Van Gundy when Drummond's performance was brought up. "You give up 19 offensive rebounds, turn the ball over 19 times, I'm not gonna find any positives."

Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe grabbed 28 rebounds, and no Bucks player collected more than nine. However Bucks guards went to the glass to help out, creating a 50-36 advantage, while the Pistons guards were relegated to spectator status in that respect.

Starting guards D.J Augustin had two rebounds and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope none.

"We didn't rebound too well. That's not just on the bigs, that's on the guards too," Augustin said. "We have to help them and it affected us on the offensive end. Bad habits, just standing around. We have to make a mental note to get down there."

Although Jennings' absence was written off by Van Gundy as "just one guy," he was certainly missed after their first quarter start that saw them put up 31 points, many of them executed by Drummond scoring the way he had his first two years in the NBA — before the Pistons pushed the fast forward button on his development.

Easy passes at the rim, Drummond running the floor and getting alley-oop dunks contributed to him going 11-for-15 from the field, a season-high in shooting percentage and scoring.

"I just kind of just relaxed and let the game come to me," Drummond said. "I didn't really get down on myself when I missed shots. D.J. and I are starting to create a bond where he feels comfortable throwing that ball to me. It was a good start but didn't amount to a win."

Augustin had seven assists but had five turnovers while Brandon Knight keyed a 15-3 run to end the third quarter when the game was tied at 64, and hit a triple with three minutes left to end a modest Pistons run, pushing the lead back to 11.

Knight's level-headed performance (20 points, eight assists, three rebounds and two steals) was the head of a long-armed, athletic and energetic Bucks team, where four of its five starters shot over 50 percent.

Larry Sanders and rookie Jabari Parker each grabbed five offensive rebounds, often leading to one of the 10 triples the Bucks hit, enabling them to run away, with Knight and backcourt partner O.J. Mayo hitting three each.

The Pistons didn't perform with that type of efficiency, shooting 42 percent after the first quarter. Monroe scored 15, but only took 10 shots, making seven as the Pistons couldn't score 20 in a quarter after the first.

"We gotta do what's the strength of our team," Monroe said. "We have to do what works for us. Attacking the rim. We definitely have the personnel. The ball should be in the paint."

It also didn't help that the Pistons went seven of 17 from the free-throw line, as Josh Smith went two for 10 there, bringing his season percentage to 41.4.

"That's it. That's the four factors in the game," Van Gundy said, referring to the Pistons' turnovers and missed free throws along with the Bucks' offensive rebounds and three-pointers. "There's nothing else to talk about. Nineteen offensive rebounds, that was everybody. They outworked us, they deserved to win."

The young Bucks are halfway to last season's win total, while the Pistons are more than halfway home to their usual residence of misery.