Preview: Bucks at Pistons

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 6: Eric Bledsoe #6 celebrates with Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks after hitting a three pointer in the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards during the Bucks 110-103 win at Capital One Arena on January 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The optimism in the aftermath of the Blake Griffin trade has disappeared. The Detroit Pistons are floundering again and in danger of sliding out of the playoff chase.

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The Pistons made a blockbuster deal with the Los Angeles Clippers to acquire Griffin in late January. They were in the midst of an eight-game losing streak when the trade was completed.

Detroit reeled off five consecutive victories, the last four with Griffin in the lineup. But the Pistons couldn’t sustain the momentum, losing three of their last four prior to the All-Star break.

The time off didn’t help as they’ve lost three straight by an average of 19 points heading into their Central Division matchup with the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Their trip to Toronto on Monday turned into a debacle during the third quarter, when the Eastern Conference-leading Raptors reeled off 14 straight points. That turned the game into a rout, and the Pistons wound up losing 123-94.

Toronto shot 52.5 percent from the field and made 17 3-point attempts.

“Two main things that have been pretty common over the last few games on the defensive end that we’ve talked about is we are not doing a good job getting back and getting matched up,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Twenty-five fast-break points (Monday) and a lot of those threes came in transition where we weren’t matched up. We are just not doing a good job of closing out to people at all. We are closing short or we are flying in the air, so we’re not getting to people.”

The Pistons (28-32) have lost three of their last four games at Little Caesars Arena, including a 110-98 decision to Boston in their first game after the break.

Griffin is averaging 19.3 points while shooting 40.1 percent from the field in his first 11 games with Detroit. He was averaging 22.6 points on 44.1 percent shooting with the Clippers this season.

“We can’t hang our heads, nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” Griffin said. “We’ve got to get back to work, figure some stuff out and need some wins.”

Milwaukee will be playing the second end of a back-to-back. The Bucks (33-27) lost at home to Washington 107-104 on Tuesday.

Coach Joe Prunty is using a three-center approach with John Henson, Thon Maker and recently acquired Tyler Zeller splitting up the minutes.

“A lot of it is the flow of the game,” he said. “There might be some other things that take place gameplan-wise that we have discussions about as a staff. But a lot of it again is who the matchup is and how we’re playing. The bottom line that we’ve always said is be ready when your number is called.”

It’s uncertain whether forward Jabari Parker will be available. He hasn’t played in back-to-back games since returning earlier this month from an torn ACL suffered last February. Parker scored 19 points in 27 minutes against the Wizards.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions about that and it’s something we’re going to continue talking about and keep with the plan we have in place for right now,” Prunty told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Milwaukee leads the season series 2-1 with Detroit prevailing at home 105-96 on Nov. 3.