Pistons news: Shootouts, competent veterans and Ausar Thompson

Jan 20, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Detroit Pistons forward Ausar Thompson (9)
Jan 20, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Ausar Thompson (9) / Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Someone forgot to tell the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks that they are allowed to play defense.

The Pistons lost a 141-135 shootout to the Bucks, not completely surprising considering these are two of the worst defenses in the league. The Bucks are 25th in the NBA in opponents' points allowed per game and the Pistons come in at 28th overall.

And things get worse for Detroit when Isaiah Stewart isn't in there, as the already-terrrible defensive rating jumps up to 129.5 when Stewart is out as he was last night.

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It was another loss for the Pistons, but there were some positives despite the fact they allowed the Bucks to shoot over 55 percent as a team.

The Pistons knocked down a season-high 21 shots from 3-point range, hitting an incredible 56.8 percent, which kept them in the game, as they only shot 46.8 from the field overall. The bench was great, with every player having a plus net rating.

They also handily lost the free-throw battle, as the Bucks shot 49 to their 32 for a nine point swing that was the difference in the game.

*SIDE NOTE: Does anyone want to see 81 freaking free throws in a game? Part of the reason scoring numbers are up so much this season is that defenders can barely breathe on a player without getting a foul called. The NBA has to do something about this. For all of the offense, this game was actually very boring at times, especially when Giannis was going to the line for 22 free throw attempts, which took around four hours of real time. It breaks up the flow of the game, ruins all momentum and any pretense that teams should care about defense at all.

Detroit Pistons: Competent veterans and Ausar Thompson

It's amazing how much difference the additions of Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari have already made to the Pistons' bench. The two went 5-of-5 from 3-point range, helped spread the floor for Ausar Thompson to operate and were a +39 combined on the night.

It's not like these two are great, but the are competent veterans who know how to play and can knock down a shot. Not only that, other teams believe they can knock down a shot, so bother to guard them. This is something I wrote about last month: The Pistons can be fixed, they just need competent bench veterans.

With Alec Burks as hot as anyone in basketball right now, the Pistons' bench could be a weapon, or at least not a big net negative as it was for most of the season.

It's a huge indictment of Troy Weaver's offseason that he didn't use the $20 million he spent on Joe Harris to get a couple of guys like this, as it might have made a big difference, or at least prevented the Pistons from tying the all-time losing streak.

Having floor spreaders around Ausar Thompson allows him to do what he does best, which is create from the wing, get to the rim and finish. With space, his slashing is a weapon as we saw last night, as he went 10-of-15 for 22 points.

In the three games since the Pistons mercifully jettisoned Marvin Bagley III and Isaiah Livers, Ausar Thompson is averaging 14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists. He's been aggressive getting to the hoop and once he gets there he knows how to finish.

It's sad that the Pistons punted their season because of poor roster construction, as they've shown they can at least hang with good teams with just the addition of two mostly-washed veterans and that was without Cade Cunningham.

A loss is a loss, but after half a season in the toilet, Detroit may be figuring some things out.