Detroit — The Pistons bench has been roundly criticized as the team’s weak spot all season.
But on Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena, the bench was the driving force in ending a three-game losing streak as the Pistons ran roughshod over the Bucks, 110-87, ending a three-game skid.
Stanley Johnson scored 19 to lead a bench attack that put up 63 points and gave the starters the jolt they needed to wake up on the defensive end and run away from Milwaukee.
After James Ennis III went to the bench early in the second half with his fourth foul, Johnson came in and helped the Pistons push their lead to double digits with drives to the basket and suffocating defense. It was a theme that was established in the first half by Johnson’s other benchmates.
After a shootout in the first quarter ended with the game tied at 32, Eric Moreland, Anthony Tolliver and Dwight Buycks all came in and were extremely active, creating extra possessions and easy buckets. Moreland had career-highs in points (10) and rebounding (12).
“We’ve got some talented guys on this team,” Johnson said. “When we can play our game and get stops and get in transition we’re going to be hard to beat.
“We’re not a team that’s lacking in confidence. We’ve got guys that can play well and churn out wins. We played hard tonight and that’s where it starts. We've got to continue that.”
Milwaukee started the game 6-for-8 from beyond the arc, but the Bucks missed their next nine attempts and didn’t hit another until Giannis Antetokounmpo (11 points) connected on the final possession of the third quarter.
“Our starters played much better defensively when they came back in in the second quarter than they did in the first quarter,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I thought their intensity picked up and I do think the bench’s play gives you something to point to and say ‘hey, we’ve got to play the same way that they were playing out there.’ I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
Reggie Bullock helped the Pistons keep pace with the Bucks early with 12 first quarter points. He finished with 16.
While Andre Drummond and Blake Griiffin struggled in the first quarter, the bench breathed some life into the big men when they re-entered the game midway through the second.
Drummond started to dominate down low and finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
Griffin was just 3-for-10 from the floor, but he contributed in all facets of the game and finished with eight points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
DELAY OF GAME
The Pistons and Bucks got started about 15 minutes later than usual after the Michigan State University Pompon squad used large quantities of athletic chalk during its pregame routine and left a sizable mess on the Little Caesars Arena floor. The running clock leading up to the game was stopped at 20:33 while the Pistons used a wet vacuum and large push broom to clean up the floor.
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.