'Head-scratcher': Pistons fall flat again in latest blowout

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Detroit's Stanley Johnson (7) goes up for a shot against Milwaukee's Brook Lopez during the first half.

Milwaukee — When it rains, it pours. For the Pistons, it’s pouring injuries and pouring blowout losses.

After their most-lopsided loss of the season on Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Pistons made it a double. They again fell into a second-quarter deficit and tried to claw back.

The Bucks dominated in the third quarter, starting with a 19-4 run in less than five minutes, and coasted past the Pistons, 115-92, on Wednesday night at Fiserv Forum.

It’s the second straight loss for the Pistons (13-9), who had won five straight but are crashing back to reality with back-to-back blowouts.

“If you’re not making shots, you’ve got to defend,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We guarded the 3-point line in stretches but not good enough. We understand that it is a different style and we have to go out and guard the 3-point line.

"We did not do a good job of that.”

BOX SCORE: Bucks 115, Pistons 92

In 30 minutes, Blake Griffin had 31 points, seven rebounds and four assists and Reggie Jackson 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists. There wasn’t much offense beyond that. Griffin was 11-of-22 from the field, including four 3-pointers, but the Pistons again struggled to make shots (37 percent field goals) and from beyond the arc (24 percent on 3-pointers).

“It’s a little bit of a head-scratcher. Missed shots are going to happen but we can’t get outworked,” Griffin said. “That’s happened at times — not for an entire game — but at the wrong times.”

Worse than the missed shots for the Pistons was another injury, as Ish Smith suffered a right-groin strain. Smith said he’ll have an MRI on Thursday.

“I don’t think it’ll be anything terrible,” Smith said. “I’ll be fine.”

With Langston Galloway starting for the injured Reggie Bullock, the reserve unit lost one of its scoring options, managing only 29 points, compared to 42 for the Bucks.

The Pistons didn’t have a defensive answer for guard Eric Bledsoe, who had 27 points, on 10-of-17 shooting. They had a good plan to contain Giannis Antetokounmpo, who totaled 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Bucks (16-7), who were without Khris Middleton (personal reasons).

More: Pistons mailbag: Don't expect Detroit to deal Drummond, Jackson

“Certain things that we didn’t do that we didn’t do that we are disciplined in,” Casey said. “The guy on the ball did a respectable job on (Antetokounmpo) but it’s the other people.

“When he kicks it out, where are we? What’s their job? Those are the things we need to be disciplined in on every possession and make sure we’re where we’re supposed to be.”

The Bucks had an 8-2 run near the end of the second quarter, pushing the lead to 13, but Drummond scored just before the buzzer to make it a 56-45 halftime deficit. The Bucks pulled away early, with a 3-pointer by Malcolm Brogdon (14 points), followed by a lay-in by Bledsoe and a dunk by Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo and Bledsoe each had seven points in the stretch and Bledsoe’s 3-pointer that ended the spurt gave them a 75-49 advantage.

Griffin helped trim the lead to 15 at the 3:09 mark, but the Bucks got it to 84-64 to start the fourth quarter. 

Five observations

1. The Pistons have some real issues with their second unit. They have labored to score in the last two losses and the deficits have ballooned during their offensive lulls. It’ll be interesting to see whether Casey changes the starting lineup to put in Bruce Brown instead of Galloway. With their backcourt depth limited by injuries to both Bullock (ankle sprain) and Smith (right groin strain). Brown and Khryi Thomas are getting more playing time and could see some expanded minutes until the regulars get healthy.

2. Andre Drummond is in a big funk. It’s not just on free throws, but Drummond’s intensity and shot selection have been big question marks of late. He looks to be out of sorts and finding no comfort level offensively. Admittedly, Casey has said they don’t call many plays for Drummond, but he’s not finding his usual baskets from offensive rebounds, either.

3. Luke Kennard still isn’t close to normal. He missed 16 games because of a shoulder sprain and after missing all five of his shot attempts Monday, he went 1-of-6 from the field Wednesday, for just two points — and didn’t play in the second half. Casey said before the game that Kennard could see more time with the Grand Rapids Drive in the development league so that he can get more reps and ease his way back into playing shape.

4. Glenn Robinson III is falling off the radar. He played just nine minutes Wednesday and had just two points and a rebound. He still starts games, but Casey has been mixing and matching the reserve group — mostly with Stanley Johnson getting extended minutes for his defense — and Robinson providing a 3-point option. With Johnson’s surge on offense, Robinson’s minutes are declining.

5. Galloway got his first start of the season, replacing Bullock in the first five. Galloway finished with five points, going 1-of-4 on 3-pointers. He didn’t find a rhythm early in the game, which came much easier when he was with the second unit. The alternative may be to start Brown and keep Galloway in the more comfortable spot with the reserves.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard