Surging Bucks host slumping Pistons
MILWAUKEE — The Bucks will try to build on the National Basketball Association’s best record when they continue a six-game home stand Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons.
Milwaukee woke up on the first day of 2019 with a 25-10 record, good for a half-game lead over Toronto in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks’ 25 victories are tied with Indiana for the second-most in the league — only Toronto has more with 27 — but their 10 losses are the fewest of any team so far this season.
“I think it’s a credit to the players for their work so far,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said of his team’s success so far. “I think they had a great summer of work and a good preseason so I think there’s something to be said for the work they put in each day — I’m more focused on that — and I think it’s logical, if you’re doing the work each day, you’ll get results that you feel good about.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo, not surprisingly, has led the Bucks’ charge to the top of the standings. After recording his franchise-record 12th triple-double in a victory over the Nets last Saturday, he’s averaging 26.6 points on 58.6 percent shooting — a new career-best. He’s also putting up career-highs in rebounds (12.8) and assists (6.1) and is on pace to become just the second player in league history to average at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while shooting at least 55 percent from the floor.
The numbers are impressive and while Antetokounmpo is proud of what the Bucks have been able to do to this point … he knows there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“It definitely means something,” Antetokounmpo said when asked about the significance of leading the NBA nearly halfway through the season. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been in first place, but I think our team can accomplish more and be a lot better than just what the number says. I want my team to keep working hard and for us to keep pushing forward to get better but I’m really happy about being in first place.”
The Pistons (16-18) had hoped to be battling Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference this season but after roaring out to a 4-0 start, Detroit has dropped 18 of its last 30 and 11 of its last 14 after dropping back-to-back contests at Indiana and Orlando last week.
Following their loss to the Pacers — a 125-88 rout — the Pistons huddled together for a players-only meeting to clear the air and hopefully find a way to get on track.
They fell behind by 14 the next night and rallied before Evan Fournier broke their hearts with a buzzer-beating floater.
“Our guys laid it on the line,” head coach Dwane Casey said afterward. “We were 14 down, the guys came in and gave it their heart and soul.”
Milwaukee has won the first two meetings between the two teams this season.