Pistons no match for NBA-best Bucks, lose fifth straight
Detroit — The Pistons have seen this movie before.
After 10 losses in the last 11 meetings against the Milwaukee Bucks, the outlook against the team with the NBA’s best record was bleak, at best. The Bucks, featuring All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, made sure the movie had a familiar ending.
The Bucks sprinted to an early lead and built a 34-point cushion before the Pistons made it closer in a 126-106 loss on Thursday night at Little Caesars Arena. It’s the fifth straight loss for the Pistons (19-39), who start a four-game trip on Sunday at Portland.
Christian Wood had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Bruce Brown 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and Derrick Rose 12 points and four rebounds.
“Nobody’s hanging their heads because they know what time of day it is and how much work we’ve got to do,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “This is what you go through when you’re developing and playing young guys. It’s not going to be pretty but there’s a level of the hard play you have to go at, especially when you’re going against a team like Milwaukee, to try to give yourself a chance to win.”
The Bucks (47-8) made it a double-digit lead in the first eight minutes, with a 23-9 margin. Antetokounmpo, who finished with 33 points, 16 rebounds and four assists, had 10 points in the first five minutes. Middleton had nine points, including the last seven in the opening spurt.
Tony Snell had five points and John Henson four in a span of 2 1/2 minutes before the Bucks finished the quarter with a jumper by Donte DiVincenzo and a three-point play by Eric Bledsoe (19 points and six assists) for a 32-18 lead entering the second quarter.
The Bucks kept the pressure on to open the second quarter, with three free throws by Brook Lopez (18 points), a 3-pointer by Bledsoe and a drive by Middleton. Antetokounmpo split a pair of free throws and followed with a three-point play on the next possession and Middleton added a 3-pointer, pushing the lead to 26.
The Pistons managed to stem the tide, but the Bucks maintained a 70-41 lead at halftime. The Pistons had a small run, with a floater by Langston Galloway (12 points) a free throw by Wood and a putback by Henson.
The Bucks had an odd sequence, with a three-point play by DiVincenzo, which was reviewed and ruled a flagrant foul, which gave him another free throw, which he made. After Pistons coach Dwane Casey argued the call, he was assessed a technical foul, but Antetokounmpo missed the ensuing free throw.
That pushed the lead to 89-59 and the lead got to 34 in the fourth quarter before the Pistons closed the margin in the final minutes. The Pistons outscored the Bucks, 65-56, in the second half, but the Bucks were able to coast with the large first-half advantage.
“You can’t wait against a really good team like that, to wait and turn it on,” Casey said. “You’ve got to be the hardest-playing team in the gym, going against the top team in the league.”
►In the first game since the departures of Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the Pistons had a new starting lineup, with Rose, Svi Mykhailiuk, Snell, Sekou Doumbouya and Thon Maker. It’s causing Casey to rebalance the rotation and give some of the young players an opportunity. The surprises in that group were Doumbouya, in place of Wood and Mykhailiuk over Brown.
►Casey said he wanted to give Wood a break from having to guard Antetokounmpo and it seemed to work, though Wood got in early foul trouble, with two fouls in the first few minutes. Wood worked better against the Bucks’ second unit and was able to be effective in help defense instead of guarding Antetokounmpo himself. They had some head-to-head matchups, but Wood didn’t back down.
►Brown had 10 rebounds and became the first Pistons guard ever with three straight games of at least 10 rebounds. He’s having to pick up some of slack after Drummond left and it’s becoming his calling card, along with his perimeter defense.
►Jordan Bone got five minutes of playing time and looked much better than his previous outings, with six points and three assists. He made both of his 3-point attempts and looked more comfortable handling the ball and running the offense.