Milwaukee — A bad night for the Pistons turned far worse Saturday for Brandon Jennings, who was fighting through a tough homecoming to the place he spent the first four years of his career.
He might have to fight back from something more difficult now.
In the third quarter of Milwaukee's 101-86 victory, Bucks point guard Brandon Knight pushed off Jennings to receive an inbounds pass, then Jennings' left leg appeared to give out on him. He writhed in pain on the baseline, yelling out and spinning on the floor multiple times before team medical personnel was able to get to him.
Jennings could put no weight on his leg as he was helped off the floor, possibly ending his recent resurgence — and leaving him facing the possibility of a long recovery from what looked to be a torn Achilles.
"It doesn't look good," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He'll be evaluated tomorrow, certainly out tomorrow and for the foreseeable future. And it doesn't look good but we'll find out more tomorrow."
Outside the locker room, Jennings' fiancé, Lashontae Heckard, and mother Alice Knox put on brave faces as Van Gundy came over to offer words of encouragement after meeting with the media.
Heckard said she was already considering ways to help Jennings through whatever recovery he'll have to endure. The hope is it's a partial tear and not a full tear.
"He's not in a good mood," said Van Gundy, who spoke to Jennings in the locker room. "It's disappointing, as well as he's been playing. He's pretty down."
The Pistons were down 24 at the time, their worst showing since releasing Josh Smith and going 12-3, but their path to the playoffs heavily relies upon Jennings being one of the better point guards in the NBA, which he has been in the last month.
It was the Pistons' fell 101-86 to the Milwaukee Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, their worst overall showing in ages. They'll go on to Toronto for Sunday's game, but Jennings will return to Detroit for his MRI Sunday morning.
And although D.J. Augustin is a capable backup, who played well in Derrick Rose's stead last season in Chicago, and rookie Spencer Dinwiddie is champing at the bit for more playing time, neither have the explosive ability Jennings has to carry a team for long stretches.
"He's been the guy who's been our catalyst offensively," Van Gundy said. "He's been averaging 20 a game, high-assist, low-turnover, playing at the highest level of his career. Was a huge factor in the previous 15 games so. It's a major, major loss."
The Pistons were already looking forward to Sunday's game, ready to put the miserable evening behind them, but now their sights may have to be reset to a familiar place — the draft lottery — if Jennings' injury is found to be the worst-case scenario.
One game after perhaps the best game of his career, a 24-point, 21-assist performance against Orlando, and averaging 21.3 points and 7.5 assists this month, Jennings was injured at the worst possible time for himself and the Pistons.
"It's tough, that's our starting point guard and one of our leaders," Pistons forward Greg Monroe said. "You guys know how important he is to this team. It's tough."
Jennings scored 16 points and had four assists in 26 minutes before he and Knight, the player for whom he was traded in July 2013, had their paths intertwined yet again.
The team termed it a "left leg injury" and stated he'd undergo further evaluation, usual protocol until a player can receive a MRI.
The Bucks manhandled the Pistons from the second quarter on, outscoring them 68-39 over the middle two quarters, and turning the fourth into an extended session of garbage time after taking a 30-point lead.
The Pistons were blitzed from the 3-point line, as O.J. Mayo hit three in a 45-second span in the second quarter while Knight and fellow former Piston Khris Middleton made two of their own. Mayo led the Bucks with 20 points in 28 minutes off the bench while Middleton scored 16 with seven rebounds as the starting shooting guard.
The Bucks hit 11 3-pointers at a 65 percent clip while shooting 51 percent from the field, a stark contrast to the Pistons making six of their 25 3-point attempts and shooting just 36 percent from the field.
"They played a lot harder and a lot better than we did," Van Gundy said. "Their ball movement was tremendous and played with a lot greater intensity. I was disappointed and our players were disappointed. We couldn't match their intensity."
Whenever the Pistons made a mistake, the Bucks pounced on it. The Pistons didn't turn it over much until the third quarter, but small things — not getting over on screens or giving the Bucks the slightest bit of daylight — usually resulted in made baskets, especially in the second quarter.
Mayo's mini-explosion loosened up what was already a step-slow Detroit defense, and after the Bucks scored 40 points in the second quarter, they were well on their way.
They gave the Pistons a bit of their own medicine with a barrage of 3-pointers, and the Pistons were unable to counter. Kyle Singler missed six of his seven 3-point attempts, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot two for 12 in 24 minutes.
Monroe grabbed 16 rebounds and scored eight points in 29 minutes, while Andre Drummond started fast and faded after early foul trouble, finishing with 10 points and seven boards.
In a season full of twists and turns, this latest one appears to be much more damaging, and the term "addition by subtraction" won't likely be uttered by anyone.