Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview: Dec. 28 at Detroit Pistons

Oct 30, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) drives to the basket during the second quarter against Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 98-83. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks head to Michigan to take on the Pistons after a tough loss against the Washington Wizards on Monday night.

The Milwaukee Bucks are so up and down. One day they’re thrashing the Washington Wizards, and then they’re giving up a huge lead to the same team the very next game! Such is life as a young team missing a key player.

The Bucks will have a shot to right the ship and grab another win over a division rival when they head to Auburn Hills on Wednesday to take on the Pistons. Detroit has been a team in flux for a while, even with the return of Reggie Jackson.

The Pistons have a lot of problems, not all of them strictly basketball-related. Jackson froze himself out of a game after coming back and refused to take shots. That’s never a fantastic sign from a player.

That is fantastic for the Bucks, though. Turmoil means it should be somewhat easier to beat Detroit, unless they band together and work through it against Milwaukee. Hopefully for the Bucks, that’s not how it happens on Wednesday!

To find out how it could happen either way, we’ll look at some major keys to victory for both teams involved in the game. After that we will scope out a player to watch on the Pistons side of things, then finally make predictions on how the game will go!

Oct 30, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Ish Smith (14) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) during the third quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 98-83. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Milwaukee: Hold Detroit Down

There’s a mark that the Bucks can shoot for, in terms of opponent points per game. When the Bucks give up 110 or more, their chances of winning are not good. Milwaukee is 1-7 in games when the other team scores that many points.

That means the Bucks are 13-8 when they allow less than 110 points in a game, which is a pretty good record! It could be even better though. Good defense so often leads to good offense, especially for a team that likes fast breaks as much as the Bucks do.

When Milwaukee holds teams to under 100 points, the Bucks are 8-4. That’s an even better record! It should be no surprise that good defense leads to good results–defense does win championships, after all.

The good news for Milwaukee is that Detroit doesn’t have a great offense. The Pistons are 20th in offensive rating, and 27th in points scored per game. Detroit averages just 98.7 points per contest! If they score less than 100, the Bucks could have a good shot to take this game–although last time these teams played, the Pistons scored 98 and won.

Mar 21, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; (Left to right) Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) forward Marcus Morris (13) head coach Stan Van Gundy forward Tobias Harris (34) and guard Reggie Jackson (1) stand during a timeout during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons win 92-91. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Detroit: Share The Love

Despite having Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, the Detroit Pistons do not have a primary scorer. Tobias Harris leads the way with 16.1 points per game, but six different Pistons average double-digit per game scoring numbers these days.

Winning games is a group effort in Detroit, both via good team defense and lots of scorers posing a threat. In addition to Harris, the Pistons have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scoring 14.7 points per game, Jackson scoring 14.1 points per game. Drummond scoring 13.9, Marcus Morris scoring 13.2 and new starter Jon Leuer scoring 11.2 points per game.

The problem with how the Pistons have operated is all of those except formerly Leuer and now Harris are in the starting lineup. Bench units in Detroit have not done great so far this season. Ish Smith and Stanley Johnson join Harris in the second unit, but the latter is having a very disappointing year thus far.

Anyway, for Detroit to score enough points to win it will take one of two things. The Pistons can either keep spreading the ball around and feeding the hot hand, or get a classic high-scoring performance from somebody like Harris or Jackson. Those are the two likeliest candidates, but someone like Morris can heat up from range and get going too.

Dec 17, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris (34) takes a shot over Indiana Pacers forward Thaddeus Young (21) during the third quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pacers won 105-90. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Player To Watch: Tobias Harris

Although Drummond and Jackson are the two biggest names here (well, technically Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the biggest name, but you get the point) Tobias Harris has been just about the best the Pistons have to offer.

Harris was traded from the Orlando Magic for not much at all–Ersan Ilyasova and a Brandon Jennings rental. Now he’s leading the Pistons in scoring while making a career-best 47.7 percent of his field goals and also 35.5 percent of his threes.

He’s taking more threes than ever before, and making a pretty good number of them. That’s always been a concern with Harris, who can create his own shot a bit and score inside. The addition of a three-pointer has made him even more dangerous.

If Harris continues to be a bench player, he might end up coming into the game as soon as Giannis Antetokounmpo leaves it. That’s not great for the Bucks, as Giannis is the team’s best defensive forward. Hopefully Milwaukee’s bench can work to contain Harris.

Oct 30, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) attempts a shot against Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) and forward Jon Leuer (30) during the second quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pistons won 98-83. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Finale

After the tough loss on Monday night, Milwaukee is back below .500 with a 14-15 record. That’s good enough for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference at the moment, and it’s hard to be overly upset if the Bucks are playing like a playoff team without Khris Middleton.

It speaks to the leaps and strides both Jabari Parker and Giannis have made recently that Milwaukee is where it is in the standings. Still, the Bucks need to become more consistent and try to not have off nights like the last game against the Wizards.

Each game is a potential fresh start in the NBA. Milwaukee can make a statement against Detroit. It could be a good statement or a bad one. There’s just one way to find out!

Predictions and Leaderboard:

Adam Coffman: Pistons by 3 — 20-8, 296 point differential

Rohan Katti: Bucks by 3 — 20-8, 308 point differential

Adam McGee: Pistons by 3 — 18-11, 311 point differential

Tom Pheister: Bucks by 3 — 18-11, 339 point differential

Jordan Treske: Pistons by 10 — 18-11, 365 point differential

Lukas Harkins: Pistons by 4 — 17-12, 324 point differential

Tim Wray: Pistons by 2 — 17-12, 339 point differential

Ti Windisch: Bucks by 5 — 14-15, 342 point differential

The game is on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. CT, and will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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