Now that they’ve lost their top reserve big man for an extended period, the Detroit Pistons are counting on heavy minutes from Greg Monroe in the frontcourt.
That doesn’t appear to be good news for the Milwaukee Bucks, who could be without their best interior defender.
Monroe looks to lead the Pistons to their third win in four meetings this season against the Bucks on Saturday night.
After learning rookie Andre Drummond would miss four to six weeks because of a stress fracture in his back, Monroe finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds in 40 minutes in a 119-109 victory over Tim Duncan-less San Antonio on Friday.
Brandon Knight added 24 points as the Pistons (19-32) matched their season-high point total, snapped a three-game losing streak and ended the Spurs’ 11-game run.
“Andre is out for a while now, so I expect I’ll play a lot more minutes,”‘ said Monroe, who averages 32.7 per game.
Drummond has been the team’s top post player off the bench, averaging 7.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. He had 18 points and 18 rebounds in Detroit’s only loss to the Bucks this season – a 117-90 home defeat on Jan. 29.
“Obviously we feel very bad for Andre, but he’s 19 and he’ll recover,” coach Lawrence Frank said. “You move forward, we get him healthy, and you go with who you got.”
Detroit is prepared to move forward with Monroe, who has averaged 20.0 points and 12.8 rebounds in his last five games.
Monroe isn’t likely to slow down in Milwaukee, where he’s posted big numbers over the past two seasons.
He’s averaged 24.7 points on 66.0 percent shooting and 12.3 rebounds in his last three trips, including 26 and 11, respectively, to lead the Pistons to a 103-87 win in the last meeting in Milwaukee on Jan. 11.
He could be poised for another big performance Saturday with the Bucks (25-23) possibly without defensive star Larry Sanders. The NBA’s leading shot blocker (3.2) did not play in a 100-86 loss at Utah on Wednesday because of a bruised lower back.
Sanders is likely to be a game-time decision on Saturday. Without his inside presence, Milwaukee was outscored 31-10 on second-chance points and 56-36 in the paint by the Jazz.
It doesn’t figure to be any easier against a Detroit team that outrebounded the Spurs 49-33 and held a 52-44 scoring advantage in the lane.
“We are a thin team, that is our makeup,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “And when we go up against the teams that have big, physical front lines, it’s a problem for us.”
Boylan’s team will try to bounce back at home after shooting 35.4 percent from the floor against Utah – its second-lowest total of the season. Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova had 17 points apiece for the Bucks, who lost for the fourth time in five games.
While Jennings scored 30 points and hit 5 of 8 from 3-point range in Milwaukee’s win at Detroit last month, he’s totaled 24 on 8-of-25 shooting in the two losses to the Pistons.
Despite 30 points from Monta Ellis, the Bucks also lost 96-94 at Detroit on Dec. 30. Ellis, though, has averaged just 14.7 points on 37.0 percent shooting in his last six games overall.
The Bucks made 21 of 46 from 3-point range in two games at Detroit, but went 1 for 16 in the last meeting in Milwaukee.
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