Tomorrow (Monday) night the Pistons head across Lake Michigan to play against the Bucks, at 8:00pm est. The Bucks are 5-8, and have yet to totally jell, and they are just starting to get healthy. As such this team figures to get better soon, so the Pistons will hope to catch them here before the Bucks get rolling to get a win.
The Them: The Bucks came into the season with huge expectations, and those expectations have not really been met so far in the young season. The Killer defense of last year has been almost no where to be seen, with a defensive efficiency of 109.2(!) which has them tied with the Pellies for worst in the league. Yes, the Lakers are 3 points better than the Bucks on defense. Saying Michael Carter-Williams has struggled would be kind. Think of how Pistons fans have complained about Reggie Jackson at times this year, but then think of if Jackson was scoring 12 points per game. That is kind of what it would be like. Kris Middleton has shot well from outside, but he is struggling to do much of anything inside the arc. (40% from 3. 37% overall.) The bright spot to the rough start however has been their pair of forwards. Giannis has been doing a similar thing to Drummond this year, where it looks like it is time to stop talking about how good he could be, and time to start talking about how good he is. Scoring 17.6ppg with good efficiency, and he can defend anyone (even if he still is not a very good shooter). And Jabari Parker is still on a bit of a minutes restriction coming off his injury, but he has looked fairly effective in his time on the floor. And of course Greg Monroe is still doing his thing. Getting buckets, rebounds, and beat on defense. The Bucks offense has not been as bad as their defense, but at just about 100, it is still very average. And they have seen a lot of the same stagnation that was present last year following the trade of Brandon Knight. (which is not looking like the best trade for them at this point.) All in all this has been a team that can't really defend anyone, and does not have enough offensive firepower or shooting to score at a very high level. HOWEVA. Despite the fact that Bucks fans are starting to panic a bit, and are calling for all sorts of things that us fans do when we panic, this team still has a lot of really good pieces, and even though it is just two seasons, Jason Kidd has shown at least some ability as a coach. There is a decent chance that this team turns it around and becomes a really solid team yet this year. They have had a lot of injuries to start the year, and are still not totally healthy. And they have a couple guys who are playing well below their career numbers. coughVasquez cough. And even in their struggling state, they do not have a horrible record. (although they have had some real blowout losses, they are tied for 5th worst in the NBA in point differential) And so a lot of this depends on what Bucks team shows up. If it is the same team that is floundering to figure out the tricky pieces of its roster with a offense and defense in disarray, then this game could end up going Detroit's way big time. But if they were to have their epiphany and figure things out to some extent, this team suddenly becomes very dangerous. It would be foolish to count this team out already. They have a lot of good players and a coach who is probably good. But then again, maybe Brandon Knight is a lot better than people gave him credit for, and MCW is a lot worse, and maybe Monroe really does not fit. Only time will tell.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Moose: This has the double whammy of two really good players at the same position, who both live in the paint. And also have some history together, and even though Moose does not appear to really have any bad blood towards the Pistons, there is no way he does not have a little extra for a team who basically said "yeah we don't really want you." Andre is better than Moose, and probably by a pretty fair margin. However Monroe can really play, which is something I hardly need to tell Pistons fans. These are both big strong guys. Andre will have to really work for rebounds, and Monroe will go right at him on defense. It will be an interesting battle on that end in particular. Andre has absolutely shut down anyone who tries to go one on one on him in the paint this year for the most part. But Monroe does not have a good jumper to fall back on like Boogie or KAT do. Although it should be noted, Monroe has shown a little more confidence in his jumper this year and has done ok in the midrange. It will be interesting to see. There is a chance that Andre could dominate this matchup, because he is a better rebounder than Monroe, and if Andre is as stout inside as he usually is, then Monroe could be largely out of luck. However if Monroe is able to hit a few jumpers then that will open up the game a lot for him. And on the flip side, if Monroe is able to go toe to toe with Drummond it will be trouble for the Pistons. Because a huge amount of the Pistons success this year has been based on Drummond's total domination of the paint. No one has really challenged him there (except freaking Nene) so if Monroe can play close to even the Pistons will probably be in a bit of trouble, but then again, if you remember Moose, he also has to play defense....
Reggie Jackson vs. Open layups: Even though I have enough respect for Monroe's game to give him a chance against Drummond, he should stand next to no chance against stopping the Jackson/Drummond PnR. Monroe has come a long way on defense, but he is still slow, and largely ground bound. Throw in the fact that MCW is generally has poor discipline on defense and you get the possibility for Jackson to have a freaking field day. In fact, if Jackson does not have a big game then there is something wrong. Monroe has no business staying in front of Jackson, or contesting lobs to Drummond. And if Monroe proves as inept at stopping the PnR as he looks to be on paper, then the Pistons might really blow this one wide open. But then again, Jason Kidd sometimes gets creative on defense, and they have a few other defenders (GIANNIS) to try and throw into the equation if they have too. Maybe I am being to hard on Monroe, but I think there is a chance that he could get played off the floor tonight.
Reggie Jackson vs. Turnovers: The Bucks have been anywhere near the terror that they were last year on defense. But they still have a bunch of long armed freaks. As such, if Jackson throws to many ill advised passes they will turn into a lot of Giannis highlights. Gotta make smart plays.
Greater Morris vs. Switches: The Bucks are generally quite ok with letting guys switch on defense. And Marcus morris generally likes to feast on teams who switch readily. There are not at lot of big mismatches (which is why the Bucks switch easily) but he will likely find himself being guarded by MCW or Middleton who are both smaller than he is. (although Middleton is not much smaller) And as such if he is able to take advantage of those mismatches it will cause some real issues for the Bucks. Although he will hopefully not try to do to much when guarded by Giannis, becuase Giannis is a good defender.
Tempers vs. Tempers: When these teams played in the preseason it got a little heated, and it makes sense. Not only are they both young, up and coming teams in the same division, but both rosters are littered with guys who used to play for the other team, but where largely given up on. Jennings won't be playing obviously, but there is some real animosity to be had between these teams. Also throw in that both Morris and Giannis have a bit of a mean streak and will be going against each other most of the game, means that there is a chance for some flare ups. I have no idea how this would go, but it is something to watch for. Because I would not be surprised in the least if this game ended up getting chippy with the end result of a flagrant foul or two being called.
So in conclusion
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre Drummond is giving a full showing of why the Pistons let Monroe go.
Jackson and Drummond are destroying everything with the PnR. (even more than usual)
The Bucks lose their cool and start a fight.
MCW looks god awful.
Brandon Jennings surprises everyone with a return and scores 60 points and walks away flipping the bird to the crowd.
Run for the hills if:
Monroe is getting some work done inside and really challenging Drummond.
Monroe looks even remotely competent in holding down the Drummond/Jackson PnR.
The Pistons lose their cool and start a fight.
The Bucks suddenly find themselves and are an all switching terror on defense.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Jackson and Drummond both score 25+ points.
A punch is thrown.
The Bucks are still out of sync, and catch Drummond on a real bounce back night and the Pistons win handily.
This could be a fun game if the Bucks pull it together, and they do worry me for that reason. But until they start to look better I am going to assume they are not better yet. As such they should be a fairly easy take for the Pistons. But bounce back for the Bucks is a possibility. Look for Drummond to come out firing too after a bad performance against the Wizards. And I am honestly hoping things get heated (not like all out fight but heated) because both these teams figure to be playing for real stakes in a couple of years. As such I am totally ok with it becoming a real rivalry.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!