The Detroit Pistons play the Milwaukee Bucks tonight and it’s a game their coach would love to get.
The Milwaukee Bucks beat Monty Williams’ Phoenix Suns in 2021 to win their second championship. No doubt, it’s a point of pride for Williams to beat the Bucks whenever he can.
The Bucks, however, have gotten better offensively since they defeated Phoenix. They now have two of the NBA’s best players in Giannis Antetokounmpo, the most physically imposing player since Shaq, and Damian Lillard, a sharpshooter who has had so many clutch performances that they’ve named clutch time after him.
Playing the Milwaukee Bucks is another great opportunity for the young Detroit Pistons to take pride in their game, to be the best version of themselves, and to learn and grow through tough competition.
The Pistons should be able to cook. Milwaukee hasn’t organized their defense, especially on the perimeter, after trading Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen. The Bucks are currently 24th in the league in defensive rating.
Detroit’s guards can look to push the pace on offense, and Cade Cunningham should be in his bag. Motor Cade has been able to score at will in some games, and in other games teams adjusted to his drives, showed him a wall of defenders, and forced turnovers. Against Milwaukee, the defense will be anchored in the post, and Cunningham should be able to kick out or feast just below the free-throw line.
Unless the Bucks fix their defense overnight, the Pistons shouldn’t struggle to score. The game, however, will be won or lost on the defensive end. It’s hard to trade shots with Lillard and Antetokounmpo and hope to win.
Can the Pistons play Lillard straight up?
If Hayes, Sasser, or Ivey take turns staying in front of Lillard and in his chest, they could make his life tough. If he gets the step on his defender, which he will at times, either the second guard or the rim protector can help, depending on the penetration.
Ausar Thompson will have his hands full staying home on Khris Middleton (*Middleton has since been ruled out for “injury maintenance.”) There won’t be enough help to go around to cover all Milwaukee’s weapons, so at times it’ll be necessary to pick the poison. At other times, individuals will need to do their best with their assignments.
If Giannis sees multiple defenders when he tries to penetrate, he’ll need to work to score. I’m looking forward to seeing how Beef Stew asserts his will, and I’m hoping Duren and Bagley stay constantly active, their heads on a swivel. If Milwaukee’s offense adapts by cutting to the basket, the deeper in the paint the ball gets, the more Detroit’s bigs will need to move and rotate.
If instead of cutting, shooters screen and flare, anyone not named Lillard can take an outside shot as far as I’m concerned. Middleton, Connaughton, Crowder, and even Lopez are more than capable of making threes, but force them to take harder, lower percentage shots and protect the rim and the paint, and most importantly, finish the possession with defensive rebounds.
If Brook Lopez, Malik Beasley, Pat Connaughton, and Bobby Portis win the ball game, we can tip our hats and move on.
If Baby Dame scores forty and Giannis continuously asserts his will on Detroit’s defense, the Bucks played the game they wanted to play.
Why not go into Wisconsin and steal one from a championship contender? Monty Williams would love it.