Lopsided loss has Pistons grasping for answers
Milwaukee — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy was almost out of answers. After his team played its most lackluster game of the season, he struggled to find reasons why — and even more concerning, how.
In coaching clichés, it's illustrated as the roller-coaster ride or the seesaw. But the up-and-down the Pistons are facing in their production and execution might just be making Van Gundy sick to his stomach.
After the Pistons trudged their way through a 109-88 blowout to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, Van Gundy had to find the words to try to sum things up.
"We didn't have any energy. I'm really disappointed and worried about where we are right now," he said. "Through the first six or seven games, we competed hard on a consistent basis; since then, we've competed hard on a sporadic basis in games."
Van Gundy lamented the lack of defense throughout the game, in which the Bucks shot 52 percent from the field, including 69 percent (9-of-13) on 3-pointers.
The featured matchup was supposed to be between Pistons center Andre Drummond and former Piston Greg Monroe, but after a lopsided third quarter, there was little suspense left as to the game's outcome.
In the first meeting between the two since Monroe left for Milwaukee in free agency last summer, Drummond got another double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds, but Monroe tallied 20 points and 13 rebounds — and the win.
"It's always fun playing against Greg," said Drummond, who played just 24 minutes. "I get to learn something new from him every time I play him."
The Pistons, who had their most lopsided loss of the season, have lost two straight and are at 7-7, in danger of falling below .500 for the first time this season. The Bucks had lost five of their last six, including a 37-point drubbing to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.
The Bucks controlled the paint, posting 34 of their 58 points in the paint in the first half, then dominated the third period, outscoring the Pistons, 30-14, and seizing control of the game.
"We made it a point to play really well in the third quarter," said Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams, who had 12 points and eight assists. "A couple games, we had collapse in the third, so we wanted to stay with it and really put the pressure on their. We kept pushing to build our lead."
The Bucks extended a 10-point halftime lead to 26 after the third, holding the Pistons to 25 percent (5-of-20) from the field and hitting 63 percent on field goals, including all three 3-pointers.
The Pistons led, 26-25, after the first quarter, with 11 points and five rebounds from Drummond and seven from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17 points). Drummond had back-to-back alley-oop dunks, from Marcus Morris and from Reggie Jackson, for a 10-8 lead, but Carter-Williams had three straight Bucks baskets.
The bench woes that plagued the Pistons in recent games faded, with the reserves playing heaving minutes because of the lopsided score. The struggles extended to the starters, as the trio of Jackson, Morris and Ersan Ilyasova — who combine to average 45.5 points — totaled just 11 points on 5-of-25 shooting.
"We came out and got spanked. They definitely came out the better team from start to finish," Jackson said. "With the way they competed versus the way we competed offensively, they definitely earned that win."
The Pistons took their largest lead, 30-25, after opening the second quarter with a pair of free throws from Stanley Johnson (16 points) and a jumper from rookie Darrun Hilliard — in his first game action and first shot attempt of the season.
But the Bucks went on a 10-3 run, with a hook from Monroe and a drive and three-point play from Jabari Parker to cut the lead to 33-32. O.J. Mayo's 3-pointer finished the run and gave the Bucks the lead.
The Bucks pulled ahead, 47-43 and Drummond had a highlight-reel series of tips for offensive rebounds — he was credited with four — and made it a two-point deficit, but the Bucks finished the quarter on a 13-3 run, with back-to-back baskets by Monroe and two more by Giannis Antetokounmpo (17 points, six rebounds), before Jerryd Bayless capped it with a triple to make it 58-48 at halftime.
The Bucks pulled away in the third, with another 9-3 spurt to make it 72-57, then another 17-3 spurt to push the lead to 84-60. The spread got to as many as 29 before the reserves finished out the fourth quarter.