With 12 games left, Pistons battling for final playoff spot
Pistons look for third straight win against Bucks
DETROIT – The Detroit Pistons are perfect halfway through this four-game stretch against some of the NBA's worst teams, but don't try telling coach Stan Van Gundy that things are going to be easy.
His Pistons are in a tight race for a playoff spot and can't afford to lose Monday night against a Milwaukee Bucks team that has been terrible on the road.
Detroit (36-34) began this nine-game homestand with a 118-114 loss to Atlanta before it got much easier with four straight losing foes. The Pistons beat Sacramento 115-108 on Friday and Brooklyn 115-103 the next night.
Up next are Milwaukee (30-40) and Orlando, although Van Gundy pointed out that the weekend will be difficult with the Hawks and Charlotte coming to town.
"We've still got a tough stretch here next week," the coach told the Pistons' official website. "Milwaukee's been playing well and then we've got Orlando and then Charlotte and Atlanta. So it's not going to be an easy week and we're going to have to compete harder at the defensive end of the floor."
Detroit is one percentage point behind Chicago for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot, with both teams one-half game behind Indiana.
There is concern since the Pistons allowed the Kings to shoot 50.6 percent before a Nets team playing without leading scorer Brook Lopez connected at 52.5.
''We got the win tonight, against not a great team that was down on people, but if we're going to make a push at the playoffs, we're going to have to defend,'' Van Gundy said Saturday. ''If we keep defending the way we've been defending, we will not make it.''
Milwaukee starts a three-game trip looking to improve on a 9-26 road mark after falling for the second time in six games, 94-85 to Utah on Sunday. The Bucks shot 52.3 percent but were undone by being outrebounded 44-27 and conceding 16 offensive rebounds.
"That slowed the pace down and gave them second and third opportunities," coach Jason Kidd said.
The coach felt the team played well when reserves John Henson and Miles Plumlee were on the floor together and said he wished he had given Greg Monroe more minutes than the 22 the center had.
"Those two were good tonight so we've got a game tomorrow so we'll probably see those two, if not those three at one point," Kidd said.
Monroe made his return to Detroit with 14 points and 13 boards in a 102-95 loss Dec. 4 after spending his first five seasons with the Pistons.
Detroit is 2-1 versus Milwaukee this season, with Andre Drummond averaging 18.3 boards. Former Pistons guard Khris Middleton is averaging 21.0 points in the season series to lead the Bucks.
These teams have the least productive benches, with Bucks reserves averaging 27.2 points and Pistons backups at 26.5.
Detroit, however, got a season-high 52 bench points Saturday with a career-high 21 from Aron Baynes and a season high-tying 17 from Anthony Tolliver.
''That's why you don't have just five guys on a team,'' Van Gundy said. ''That's why you've got 15."
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