The Detroit Pistons continued their up and down season with a huge 119-94 loss at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, but have a chance to bounce back and improve their road record as they face the Atlanta Hawks.
The Pistons managed to put up a competitive fight against the Bucks in the first half, but a 57-41 second half in favour of Milwaukee saw that competitiveness thrown right out of the window.
Antetokounmpo finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals, while Parker logged an incredible 31 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists while shooting 72.2 per cent from the field.
Shutting down the best player or players of opposing teams has been a serious problem, particularly during the five-game losing streak that recently occurred, and is a far cry from finding themselves as the second-best ranked defensive team.
During the Pistons losing streak they saw John Wall and Bradley Beal drop 29 and 25 for the Washington Wizards, 26 from Paul George against the Indiana Pacers, a career high 38 from Marc Gasol against the Memphis Grizzlies and a combined 57 points from Kevin Durant and Steph Curry against the Golden State Warriors.
The only game during this streak where they didn’t get scorched by the opposing team’s best player came against the Chicago Bulls where they restricted Jimmy Butler to a relatively low 19 points.
While some of the players who have had big nights against the Pistons are amongst the best in the NBA, it’s clear the Pistons have to show an improved defensive effort as they head into Atlanta.
The Pistons still find themselves sixth in defensive efficiency despite their recent horrible run of form, but their efficiency in the past three games (1.077) would place them in the bottom five in the league.
Similarly, while the Pistons are second in defensive efficiency at home (0.980), they find themselves nineteenth on the road (1.061).
If the Pistons are to defeat the Hawks they’re going to have to display a radically improved defensive effort on the road compared to what has become the norm this season.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect the Pistons matchup with the Hawks is the continued speculation around Stan Van Gundy’s lineups.
Tobias Harris was sent to the bench and replaced with Jon Leuer recently, and while Harris has been dominant in his three games off the bench (averaging 23.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 53 per cent from three) it hasn’t seen all of the Pistons’ problems magically disappear, despite seeing the Pistons ranked ninth in bench scoring since making the switch.
It will be interesting to see how Marcus Morris performs, as a growing number of people call for him to be sent to the bench for either Stanley Johnson or Tobias Harris.
Morris had a blistering start to the season where he reached double digit points in each of his first eight games, but since then his performance has been incredibly erratic and is only averaging 40.3 per cent from the field and 33.6 from three.
Van Gundy loves Morris for his defence, but it’s hard to justify keeping him in the starting lineup when Stanley Johnson could likely provide similar production on both ends of the court.
Right now the future of this team is incredibly murky, but hopefully come tip-off in Atlanta things start to become a little clearer for the Pistons.