MILWAUKEE — Much was made over how badly the Milwaukee Bucks were beaten on the glass over their past two games, especially with one of the NBA’s best rebounding teams looming on the schedule.
In order for the Bucks to snap their modest two-game losing streak, they were going to need to put forth a much better rebounding effort than they had against Toronto and Washington.
Not only did Milwaukee hold its own, but also the Bucks took it to the Pistons on the glass, outrebounding Detroit, 50-36, in a 98-86 victory on Tuesday in front of 15,265 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
"We talked about it for the last two days," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "Detroit is a team that lives on the glass. We saw it when we played them at their place. Our objective tonight was to team rebound and have everybody pitch in — bigs and the littles.
"Everyone was involved. This is the way we have to rebound if we want to win a game like this."
After being outrebounded 110-66 in their last two games, the Bucks stressed the need to avoid defensive mistakes that lead to a guard trying to box out an opposing big man.
Detroit entered Tuesday averaging 45.4 total rebounds and 12.2 offensive rebounds per game, ranking fourth in the league in both categories. Detroit center Andre Drummond came in fourth in the NBA in rebounds per game at 11.6.
The Bucks were 29th in the league in opponent offensive rebounding percentage, allowing foes to grab 28.0 percent of their misses. After the Wizards got the offensive rebound on 41.7 percent of their misses Saturday, the Bucks limited the Pistons to just eight offensive rebounds on 42 misses (19.0 percent).
Milwaukee allowed just 13 second-chance points to Detroit on Tuesday, a far cry from the combined 59 scored against the Bucks by Toronto and Washington.
"They are a really big team," Bucks guard O.J. Mayo said of Detroit. "They do what they do well, which is rebound the ball well and get second and third opportunities at the basket. We felt like if we were even or close, we’d give ourselves a chance to win."
Not only did Milwaukee keep Detroit off the offensive glass, but it grabbed a season-high 19 offensive rebounds of its own, which led to 22 second-chance points.
"Well 19 offensive rebounds, it was everybody," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn’t compete on the glass and they outworked us. They deserved to win."
Rookie Jabari Parker, Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova all had nine rebounds for the Bucks, while every player who finished the game healthy had at least two. Parker and Sanders each had five offensive rebounds, while reserve center Zaza Pachulia finished with four offensive boards.
The Bucks have struggled mightily with the Pistons in the past due to the size of Detroit’s interior. Drummond, Monroe and Josh Smith combined for 28 rebounds, but the rest of the Pistons had just eight.
"I think we did a good job of expecting the contact and expecting them to go to the boards," Sanders said. "Everyone did a good job of getting down there and getting their bigs off the boards.
"It has kind of been our Achilles’ heel a little bit, but like all good teams we watched a lot of film to try to nip it in the bud. When I say nip in the bud, I mean it is a process and we’re getting better at it."
Thanks to the rebounding and defensive effort as a whole, the Bucks were able to use a 15-3 run to take control of the game with a 79-67 lead after three quarters. Detroit scored just one point in the final two minutes, 14 seconds of the third quarter, as Milwaukee pulled away for good.
"I think we’re learning time and score," Kidd said. "We’ve shot some where we get the offensive rebound and we fire one up in the third and fourth quarter instead of setting up another play and running some time off.
"There’s a lot of lessons learned we’ve been through early in the season. We were getting offensive rebounds and we weren’t forcing shots. We were being patient and that’s a sign of a good team."
With the win, the Bucks are just the eighth team in NBA history to have a winning record through 15 games a season after having a sub-.250 winning percentage. Of the seven previous times such a turnaround has happened, only the 1994-95 Dallas Mavericks, which featured Kidd as a rookie point guard, had a worse record the year prior than the Bucks did in 2013-14.
"I think you can feel the energy," Kidd said. "You can see the crowd is building. Each time we play, if you can get one more person in those seats to come and support the Bucks, I think it is good. I think they like the way the guys are playing.
"When you talk about Milwaukee and the economics and going to work every day, well their team kind of resembles that – a young team that’s out there playing as a team. There’s not just one person you can focus on."
Henson exits: Bucks forward John Henson left Tuesday’s game with 8:05 left in the second quarter with a left foot sprain.
Henson, who appeared to suffer the injury contesting a shot, was helped to the locker room by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kendall Marshall. He will not play Wednesday when the Bucks face the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis.
"We planned on John playing a lot of minutes tonight, especially with four (games) in five (nights)," Kidd said. "He came in with a little energy and gave us a spark before he went out."
Bucks reserve guard Nate Wolters was unavailable Tuesday due to the flu. He also won’t make the trip to Minnesota and is unlikely to join the team for Friday’s game in Detroit.
Lineup change: After experimenting with it in practice, Kidd decided to insert O.J. Mayo into the starting lineup Tuesday, bringing Khris Middleton off the bench.
"He is one of our highest IQ guys when you talk about basketball," Kidd said of Mayo. "He is a basketball player, coming off the bench, starting. He has prepared himself now to start after yesterday’s practice and (Tuesday’s) shootaround.
"He has been one of those guys we’ve asked to do a lot of different things, and he has responded in a positive way. I think he has been a great role model on and off the court for our young guys."
In his first start of the season, Mayo finished with 17 points and three assists in 28 minutes.
"It is a role I’m familiar with," Mayo said. "Whatever our team needs in order to be successful. If I can help, I want to be able to go out and do that."