Following the additions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, the Detroit Pistons were in a good position to make significant strides this season.
Although they've yet to show much improvement, the Pistons have a good chance to win consecutive games for the first time Monday night with the Milwaukee Bucks on the cusp of their worst losing streak in 16 years.
Coming off its fifth straight losing season, Detroit (5-8) hoped to start turning things around after making some big moves over the summer. The Pistons inked Jennings to a three-year, $24 million contract following a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee and signed Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal.
Jennings and Smith, however, have been inconsistent at best. Jennings, who averaged 17.0 points and 5.7 assists in four seasons with the Bucks (2-10), hopes to end his scoring slump as he faces his old club for the first time.
Since averaging 18.3 points in his first seven games, he's scored 11.3 over his last four. Jennings finished with 14 points and 10 assists, but missed eight of 10 shots in a 109-97 win at Brooklyn on Sunday.
After Smith went scoreless off the bench in Friday's 96-89 loss to Atlanta - he was yanked from the starting five for missing Thursday's practice - he had 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting against the Nets in his return to the lineup.
Smith has a good chance to bounce back after averaging 21.3 points and 13.5 rebounds in his last six meetings with the Bucks while he was with the Hawks.
Rodney Stuckey continued his recent surge with a season-high 27 points on 10-of-16 shooting in Sunday's win. The reserve guard is averaging 20.8 points while shooting 54.4 percent over his last four games.
"I'm just trying to come in and just be that energy guy that we need off the bench," Stuckey said. "Just bring energy and whatever my teammates need me to do."
After picking up only their third victory in 10 games, the Pistons appear to be in a prime spot to finally claim consecutive wins. The Eastern Conference-worst Bucks, who have been hit hard by injuries, are trying to avoid dropping nine in a row for the first time since March 7-22, 1998.
Milwaukee coach Larry Drew promised changes after his team put up 33 points in the second half and shot 35.3 percent overall in a 96-72 home loss to Charlotte on Saturday.
Khris Middleton, who came to Milwaukee in the Jennings trade, had a career-high 20 points. The reserve forward outscored the starting five of Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia, O.J. Mayo and Luke Ridnour, who combined for 18 points on 8-of-28 shooting.
"I told the guys after the game that there will be changes in our starting lineup," Drew said. "If they're not on the same page with it, so be it, but there will be changes."
Drew's club, which once had as many as a half-dozen out of action, is still missing Larry Sanders (thumb) and Carlos Delfino (foot). Brandon Knight, also acquired in the Jennings trade, returned Saturday after missing five games with a hamstring injury.
The Bucks lost three of four to the Pistons last season, though they did pull out a 117-90 win in Detroit on Jan. 29 behind Jennings' game-high 30 points.
The Associated Press News Service
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