Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Credit Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The defending NBA champions are off to a slow start, including three consecutive home losses.

They'll look to end the slide against the struggling Pistons in Detroit on Tuesday night.

The Bucks could not ask for a better matchup to turn things around. They have defeated Detroit 14 consecutive times, including postseason play. They downed the Pistons three times early last season.

Milwaukee's skid began Wednesday with a 113-108 loss to Minnesota. The Bucks dropped a back-to-back over the weekend, falling to San Antonio 102-93 and Utah 107-95.

The Bucks' Khris Middleton missed the game with a non-COVID-19 illness. Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo are nursing ankle injuries, and Brook Lopez has a back issue. Rodney Hood injured his hand against the Jazz and played only 11 minutes.

"There's always a confidence that comes with winning, a confidence that comes with maturity and a core that's been together," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "We are banged up, we're injured, but you've got to go out and compete. Nobody feels sorry for you, nobody's going to worry about you. We've got to keep playing, keep competing, keep growing, keep developing and hopefully get some of our guys back healthy."

Two-time Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo has tried to carry the team while short-handed. He scored 25 points while making half of 20 field-goal attempts against Utah, but 11 of his attempts came beyond the 3-point arc as he too often settled for perimeter shots. He had taken a combined 20 3-point shots in Milwaukee's first six games.

"He's just got to pick his spots," Budenholzer said. "There's a lot of decisions that are in his hands. He's got a lot of freedom and he's earned it. He's just got to continue to make winning plays."

Detroit is 1-5, with its only victory coming at home against Orlando on Saturday. The top pick in the draft, Cade Cunningham, made his NBA debut that night. He struggled from the field, scoring two points on 1-for-8 shooting in 19 minutes.

"I just missed 'em," Cunningham said. "I'm confident in my shot. A couple of them felt really good, a couple were off a lot more than where I wanted them to be, but it comes with it. You miss some, you make some, but you've got to keep shooting."

Cunningham, who was sidelined with an ankle injury, then sat out the second game of a back-to-back. Detroit lost at Brooklyn on Sunday, 117-91. Cunningham is expected to play on Tuesday.

Detroit shot 40.5 percent from the field against the Nets, and no player had more than 13 points. For the season, the Pistons are shooting 40.7 percent overall and 28.9 percent on 3-point attempts.

"It's the NBA. Everybody's doing back-to-backs," guard Cory Joseph said. "No excuse on whatever the reason is. We've just got to play better. We allowed them to shoot 52 from three, 65.3 from the field. That's way too high, especially a talented team like that."

Pistons coach Dwane Casey also was disappointed by the team after it scored 62 second-half points against the Magic in a 110-103 victory.

"If you don't come in mentally ready to play against a high-powered team, it's a recipe for disaster," he said. "It's a hard lesson to learn, but it's a lesson we had to learn."

--Field Level Media

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