The Bucks will come to the Palace tomorrow (Friday) night at 7:30 EST. to play against the Pistons for their second meeting of the season. Last time they played the Pistons laid an absolute dud and got blown out, (which I'm sure most of you remember.) however I would not put a whole lot of worry into that for this game. Some things have changed with the Bucks, and by most measures they have improved a little bit, but the empiphinay that looked like they may have had against the Pistons did not last and the Bucks are just 1-4 since playing the Pistons. (with the lone win coming against Denver.)
Previously against the Bucks.(link to my recap of the game.)
The Them: Despite the Bucks thrashing of the Pistons the last time they played, (which to this point is certainly the worse loss of the season for the Pistons) the Bucks are still really struggling. Their offense is creeping up towards mediocrity (OffRtg: 99,8). And while the defense has improved since their last meeting, it is still a miserable DefRtg: 106.7, which is good for 3rd worse in the NBA. The things that have changed with the Bucks is to their starting lineup. Jarryd Bayless has taken over the starting PG spot for Michael Carter-Williams because MCW had, rather simply put, been playing totally miserably. And OJ Mayo is now starting at SG, and Jabari Parker is now coming off the bench, (which pushes Middleton to SF, and Giannis to PF in the starting lineup) Jabari was moved (as far as I can gather) mainly due to poor defensive play, and also that they were easing him back from the injury anyways and it was decided he would do better off the bench. The offense is still mostly anchored by the trio of Greg Monroe, Giannis Antetekumpo (or however the hell you spell it), and Kris Middleton. Monroe and Giannis are still playing generally excellent and efficient offensive basketball, and Middleton is lighting it up from deep (although oddly shooting like crap inside the 3 point line. 47% from deep, 40% overall. Like I'm not sure I've seen a discrepancy like that before.) With Bayless and Mayo in the starting lineup now, the offense looks a bit different, mainly in that there is more shooting on the floor on offense. Bayless is obviously a much better shooter than MCW, and while Mayo has really struggled from deep so far this year (27.5%) he is theoretically a decent shooter. And oddly Jabari Parker has yet to even attempt a 3 this year, so even though Giannis is not a great shooter, his 31% provides more spacing than a literal non threat. (and I say oddly because I had been under the impression that Parker could really shoot) It would probably also not be a stretch to say the lineup lost much defense either. Bayless is not as big as MCW, but MCW has been very prone to dumb plays, and Parker was benched specifically because of his defense. Although I'm not sure OJ Mayo is a defensive improvement over anyone. With the new lineup, both Parker and Jon Henson are very good bench players. But the other bench guys are really struggling. MCW might not be any good at basketball, "General" Greivis Vasquez has shot absolutely horribly (26% from 3 and just 36% overall), and beyond that, there is not a ton. Tyler Enis and Johnny O'Bryant have looked decent at times, but they're both only in their second years so it is too early to judge them. The reality is that this team is still floundering, and while I still think they could very easily turn into a pretty good team at some point, something very clearly has to change. Think of them almost like a worse version of the Rockets, (but minus all the locker room problems) in that they have good players, who are tricky to fit together. So even though they probably will turn it around at some point, it will require some definite change from what they are doing, this goes beyond just some slump.
Matchups to watch:
Andre vs. Monroe: Once again, this is the obvious one. Two really good, big, physical, young centers going at it. In their last meeting they were pretty neck in neck (with perhaps a slight edge to Monroe) but Andre looked very off. Monroe is really good but I would still think that Andre should win this matchup, the reality is that Andre is so dominant in the paint that unless he has a good night with his jumper Monroe should not do very well. But then again, maybe I am underselling Monroe. One thing to watch for (based on last game at least) is how Monroe does when Andre is out of the game. Monroe ate up Aron Baynes in the last game, and this could be a way for the Bucks to get production out of Monroe even if he struggles against Andre. Regardless, especially with the Bucks going much smaller with their starters, Andre has a chance to have a really nice game rebounding the ball, and ergo scoring the ball. This will should be the most fun, and most important matchup of the night. Andre is the Pistons best player, and Monroe is close to the Bucks best player. They are both counted on to do a lot, so if one can manage to really outplay the other it swings the game in their team's favor.
Reggie vs. Playing defense: Despite back to back excellent outings for Reggie, his defense has really been suffering as a result of his bad leg. While in theory, this would be a night where it is not a big issue because the Bucks have generally got really bad PGs, but in the last game it was a huge issue. Because crappy PG play is one of the biggest issues for the Bucks on the offensive end, but Reggie's inability to stay in front of people (and stupid navigation of screens but idk if that is Reggie or SVG) allowed the Bucks to actually get pretty good PG play the last time these teams played. Think of it this way, if an opposing team had a REALLY crappy backup center which allowed the Pistons bench mob to dump it into Baynes each possession for an easy bucket, which results in the Pistons bench suddenly having a really good night. Suddenly the Pistons are (probably) destroying whoever they happen to be playing. Thats what getting solid offense from the PG spot is the equivalent of for the Bucks. (although Bayless is better offensively than MCW)
Greater Morris vs. Switches: The Bucks generally like to switch a lot on defense, and if they keep up that trend with the smaller lineup it could easily end with Morris being guarded by OJ Mayo for some possessions. In theory this would allow Morris to have a big night (and FWIW Middleton is a bit smaller too, I don't include him only because he is generally a really good defender) which is always a great thing for the Pistons.
KCP vs. Putting the ball in the hoop: I'm officially worried about KCP's shot, he is missing a lot, and the diet of shots has not been all that difficult. I'd like to think that he is still just in a slump, but the reality is that he has two seasons in the NBA. 1st season he was a bad shooter, 2nd season he was just above the "competent" line. As such, it is entirely possible that he just is not a very good shooter, which would really suck. Because if he can even get back to the 35% range of competency then he won't hurt the offense much, but if he is indeed a 30% shooter from deep (not even mentioning his struggles elsewhere) much longer then teams will get braver about sagging off of him. Which will start to really hurt the Pistons offense. It would also suck because KCP is exactly the sort of dude who is just awesome to watch play with his effort and defense, so it would suck if he became a real problem on offense. (ala Tony Allen, although he is already certainly better on offense than Allen, but same basic principle. Super loveable player, but unavoidably an issue at times.)
Forwards vs. Giannis: Provided that Ersan does in fact end up guarding Giannis, the Pistons might need almost an act of God to stop him. Ersan does some things good on defense, but his biggest flaw is that he is almost laughably slow. Giannis is really quick and fast. This is an issue, although maybe Ersan can punk Giannis into a couple of offensive fouls. Regardless, Giannis figures to be a big issue for Ersan to guard, so the Pistons will need a really good effort from Ersan + help defense to keep him down.
Bench vs. Suicide hotline: Holy crap the Pistons bench is bad. Like really bad. The Bucks do not have a great bench by any stretch, but the bench needs to find something. The starters can only have so many games where they are brilliant.
Pistons vs. Good offense: The last couple of games have featured the Pistons showing off great ball movement and generally starting to really settle in with the system and each other. The Bucks still theoretically have all the long armed beasts to get in passing lanes, but so far this year they have been super crappy on defense. As such, if the Pistons can keep up some of the ball movement like they've been showing then they could well bust this one open.
Pistons vs. Effort on D: I love SVG, because he absolutely called out his team after the Suns game. Now obviously it is the world's worst kept secret that NBA players are not actually trying their hardest most of the regular season, but the Pistons have to give good effort on D to be good. And while they do not need to go super balls out all the time (in fact they shouldn't because that would kill them) but they do not feature enough good one on one defenders to get lazy on D. Once again, this was a real issue against the Bucks last time. It is an interesting contrast with this team however, that they are well coached/smart enough/long armed army enough that when they are really tuned in they can absolutely smother opponents, but at the same time are capable of getting torched when not locked in.
So in conclusion
Cackle with knowing glee if:
Andre is beating Monroe to a pulp.
OJ Mayo has to try and guard Greater Morris.
The Pistons are smothering the Bucks on D.
The bench shows literally any signs of life.
Run for the hills if:
Monroe is battling Andre to even, or worse yet beating him.
Giannis is getting to the hoop whenever he wants.
Reggie can't stay in front of his man and the Bucks suddenly look competent on offense.
The Pistons are hella lazy again.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre took the last game kind of personal and has a big game.
Monroe struggles against Andre but freaking feasts on Baynes to have a good game anyways.
Greater Morris puts up a picture of himself as Godzilla destroying Milwaukee this time.
SVG puts a fire under the Pistons butt and they come out really swinging for a good and easy(ish) victory.
The Bucks are struggling, and this is a section of the schedule the Pistons should have a bit of a win streak. I'm still a bit worried that Monroe is smart/familiar enough with Andre that he can get his buckets and get Andre in foul trouble, but I have faith in Andre at this point. Another thing to watch, is that Jabari should be able to score with ease on Tolly if that ends up happening. Should be a decent game though.
What do you think? Think I'm stupid? Let me know! We all get smarter!
P.S. I've never really done twitter, but ya'll have given a super positive response to this stuff and seem to like it for some reason. As such, I think I might give the whole twitter thing a try if anyone would have interest in that. Imma just put a comment on this post that just says "Twitter?" If you would have interest in that then just upvote it, if it gets a few then I'll give it a try.