PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; Pistons lead 1-0.
Even if they solve Detroit’s halfcourt trap, the Bucks still must overcome the Pistons’ pressure defense in regular offensive sets if they have any chance of leaving The Palace of Auburn Hills with a split.
The opener of this first-round series saw Pistons coach Larry Brown implement a trapping press. The strategy surprised, and ultimately frustrated Milwaukee as it was forced into mistake after mistake.
Detroit caused 25 turnovers and set a team playoff record with 14 steals en route to a 108-82 victory Monday in Game 1.
“We didn’t expect it,” admitted Bucks guard Michael Redd, who committed seven turnovers. “We were careless. We didn’t have our positioning on the court. We were all bunched up and you can’t have that when they’re trapping.
“So, we’ve got to spread the court out a little bit more. We’ll be ready for Wednesday.”
Redd was limited to 11 points—about half his average during the regular season—as Detroit held the East’s highest-scoring team 16 points below its season average. The Pistons also had a 52-38 rebounding advantage.
“I’m real pleased with the way we played,” Brown said. “We rebounded the ball, we shared the ball and we forced them to turn the ball over, which gives us a chance for some easy baskets. We had a lot of guys playing great basketball.”
Game 1 was a continuation of how the Pistons have tormented opposing offenses all season. They allowed 84.3 points per game—third-lowest in the NBA in the shot-clock era—and set a league record by holding the opposition below 70 on 11 occasions.
What was not just an extension of the regular season was the trapping press, which led to many easy baskets for the Pistons. Detroit had 22 fast-break points while Milwaukee, which coming into this series had hoped to beat the Pistons with transition baskets, scored only seven.
“You never really know who’s going to come with the double team,” Bucks forward Joe Smith said. “That’s something they didn’t do on us in the regular season. So, the good thing about it is now we know they’re going to do it.
“Hopefully, we’re better prepared this time.”
Another thing the Bucks did not see from the Pistons during the regular season was Rasheed Wallace.
The volatile power forward was acquired by Detroit a day after the team’s final meeting of the season with Milwaukee. Wallace was a nuisance on both ends of the court Sunday, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.
“We were already an elite team before he got here, but we’re definitely better and we have more credibility with Rasheed,” said Pistons guard Chauncey Billups, one of six Pistons to score in double figures in Game 1.
All three frontcourt starters—the Wallaces (Rasheed and Ben) and Tayshaun Prince—had double-doubles.
Milwaukee has no such presence in the post, with most of its scoring coming from perimeter-type players.
One of the players whom the Bucks need to step up is Keith Van Horn, who came off the bench Monday because he’s still bothered by an injured hand. Van Horn, who had started his previous 35 playoff games, scored just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in 31 minutes.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Bucks - 6th seed. Pistons - 3rd seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Bucks - Mason, 16 ppg; Smith, 11 rpg; Jones, 7 apg. Pistons - Hamilton, 21 ppg and 8 apg; Ben Wallace, 14 rpg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Pistons, 3-1. Each game was decided by six points or fewer. Hamilton and Billups scored at least 20 points in all three Pistons’ wins, but combined for just 24 in the team’s lone loss. Redd averaged 24.8 points in the series. Ben Wallace averaged 12.5 points and 15.3 rebounds per game.