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Pistons draw fans' ire in seventh straight loss

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Josh Smith patted his chest to say, "my bad" after Bucks rookie forward Jabari Parker flew over the top of Smith to slam home a thunderous tip dunk in the third quarter, while Stan Van Gundy's face showed the frustration borne out of his team's ineffectiveness and lack of effort.

The phrase, "they haven't yet had a stinker" can be checked off the list, as they played the part of Thanksgiving turkey to the Milwaukee Bucks, losing to their rivals for the second time in four days, 104-88, at The Palace, their seventh straight loss

Van Gundy's frustration soon led to fan disapproval for the first time in his tenure, as the Palace fans who braved the snow on Black Friday began booing as the Pistons fell behind by 19.

It was amazing considering the Bucks didn't have one starter score in double figures, and astonishing when you factor in Van Gundy blasted his team for their lack of intensity in their earlier meeting.

Much of the Bucks' scoring came from the bench, as reserve Ersan Ilysova scored 22 with eight rebounds, with Jared Dudley adding 16 and former Piston Khris Middleton scoring 12, as most of them contributed to the Bucks (10-7) blitzing the Pistons (3-13) from outside, hitting 13 triples at a 45-percent clip.

"Every one of them well above what they'd been shooting from 3-point range," said Van Gundy, who was more dejected than angry afterward. "They'd been struggling from 3. They lit it up. We had no answer. We couldn't get back in transition to get matched up, then they spread us out in the halfcourt."

Oh, let's not forget to mention the Bucks were without big men John Henson and Zaza Pachulia, playing right into the Pistons' supposed advantage on the interior.

And although Andre Drummond had his best statistical game to date with 26 points and 20 rebounds, it was hard to tell his true effect, considering the Pistons were outrebounded, yet again, 44-38 .

"It's empty, man. I could put up 40 points but to lose the game doesn't mean anything to me," said Drummond, after his third 20-20 game all occurred in losses. "I'd rather win the game."

More glaringly, when Greg Monroe only gets two shot attempts — one where he split a double team for a dunk and another where he ripped the ball away from Ilysova after a rebound to score a layup, it illustrated the Pistons inability — either from coaching or player execution or both—to recognize mismatches.

Parker, a rookie who would naturally struggle defensively, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, a lanky, 6-foot-11 wing player, did just enough to keep entry passes from going Monroe's way.

"They were doubling every time he got it," Van Gundy said. "Andre got it plenty, Josh (Smith) got it down there."

Remarkably, at that point in the game, late in the third quarter, 13 players had taken more shots than the Pistons' most talented offensive player, a team missing their starting point guard but having two play in his stead who Van Gundy expressed utmost confidence in.

"They were getting in front of those passes and when we did enter the pass, they would trap them," said guard D.J. Augustin. "We tried other things to get things going, but it was a tough night for us."

Smith did a lot of initiating on offense as Brandon Jennings missed his third straight game, dishing out nine assists, but turned it over six times.

Instead, they did everything possible to diversify an offense that didn't need much of it, while allowing the fast-moving, quick and long Bucks to fly up and down the floor, grab long rebounds and play with an energy and urgency that should be required for a team that's lost six games in a row.

But the Pistons were the lethargic bunch for most of Friday, perhaps feeling satisfied with their empty effort against the Los Angeles Clippers — or too full of Thanksgiving turkey as they meandered on defensive rotations, often allowing reserve forward Jared Dudley to camp out near the 3-point line on set plays, as nobody communicated as to whose responsibility it was to cover a small forward.

An eight-point halftime lead was cut to five to start the fourth, as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 10 of his 21 in the third quarter to get it back to striking distance.

But the Bucks struck hard and quickly, hitting seven of 11 triples as the Pistons defense scrambled in vain.

"They shot the hell out of the ball," Van Gundy said. "They riddled us at the other end. We were fine, starters versus starters but once they went to the bench we had no answers."

And if he doesn't have the answers, who does?