Rod Beard breaks down the Pistons loss to the Bucks. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Milwaukee — Coach Stan Van Gundy faced a dilemma in the fourth quarter of the Pistons’ 99-95 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night: stay with what he knew or go completely unconventional.
He did a little of both down the stretch.
Despite his improved play this season, point guard Reggie Jackson didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter, as Van Gundy stuck with Ish Smith, who didn’t score in the final period but had three assists and helped keep the offense on track.
“It was more we were playing well,” Van Gundy said. “Ish didn’t even play very well, but it was going and if you look at the way we’re playing (it helped).”
The other choice was to sit rookie Luke Kennard, who had a hot hand and had eight points in a three-minute span that helped spark the comeback from a 13-point deficit to start the final period. It was a difficult choice for Van Gundy, who considered keeping Tobias Harris on the bench in favor of the rookie in a three-guard rotation with Smith and Avery Bradley.
“I wanted to get Avery back in the game and I debated on the Tobias-Luke thing because Luke was going so well, but your leading scorer is on the bench and you need to score, so I’m not kicking myself too much,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not sure Luke deserved to come out of that game.”
“I thought we were playing better with Ish, but neither point guard played very well tonight. That was part of our problem: we didn’t play very well.”
The Bucks’ length gave the Pistons problems, causing 18 turnovers and 16 blocked shots. When the Pistons started getting into a groove on offense, they were able to chip away at the lead behind the bench unit in the first seven-plus minutes.
“It’s crazy to even think that when you get into the paint, you either have to jump-stop and kick out for shots or go strong,” Smith said. “Their length is something that is their strength; they pose a lot of problems for you.”
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy talks about the Pistons loss to the Bucks. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Anthony Tolliver, who guarded the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Galloway each had nine points off the bench. Jackson had just six points, on 2-of-7 shooting, and two assists in 22 minutes.
The Pistons got Stanley Johnson and Jon Leuer back from injuries and Van Gundy had planned on using both, but he said Leuer complained of tightness in his sprained left ankle just before the game, which changed the plan.
With the Pistons’ improvement in the reserve group, Van Gundy isn’t guaranteed to stick with one particular plan of using Jackson, who has returned to his dominating form, especially in fourth quarters of games.
Van Gundy didn’t seem to think Jackson had it and stuck with Smith, who finished with four points, four rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes.