With the third game of their first round in the NBA Playoffs in the books, the Milwaukee Bucks are in danger...of winning a game by only single digits. After winning by 35 and 21, the Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons by only 16 points on Saturday night, 119-103.
The story leading up to the game was all about Blake Griffin, who had been rumored to be unavailable for the entire first round, then had been deemed a “game-time” decision for the first two contests, and finally being not just active, but named as a starter, before tip-off tonight. Could he buoy the talent-light Pistons squad and lead them to an upset against the best team in the league?
To his credit, Blake’s credit sparked some enthusiasm from his teammates, and Detroit leapt out to an early lead...that was quickly matched by some timely shot-making from Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez, as well as some nifty finishes at the basket by Eric Bledsoe.
That was, indeed, all folks.
Milwaukee’s depth won the day.
The Bucks would maintain the lead for the duration. Giannis Antetokounmpo never really got going, but more than enough of his teammates stepped up. Khris Middleton: 20/8 boards/4 assists. Eric Bledsoe: 19/6 rebounds/5 assists. Brook Lopez. 19/7/5 blocks. George Hill: 11 points/5 assists/5 rebounds. Ersan Ilyasova: 15 points. But no contribution was more welcome than...
Nikola Mirotic returned to the active roster from a thumb injury in Game 1, and looked exceptionally rusty for both of the Bucks’ first two postseason games. Tonight, with 12 points and 3/5 shooting from deep, ThreeKola looked far more comfortable and in his element, giving the Bucks yet another big man who can stretch the floor to 30 (or more) feet.
Detroit feels like a team without any answers.
I know it’s a 1-8 playoff matchup, and that more often than not, the top seed takes care of business against the lower one. And tonight, Dwane Casey deciding to insert a hobbled Blake Griffin into the starting lineup felt like a last-ditch effort to gum up the gears in the Bucks’ machine. Maybe his presence made life more difficult for Giannis, but if the Detroit gameplan was to make the rest of the Bucks beat them while focusing on Antetokounmpo...well, that’s exactly what happened.
Bonus Bucks Bits
The Bucks have outscored the Pistons by 72 points in these three games. Were they to win by 28 in Game 4, it would only be their second-largest margin of victory in this series.
The Brew Hoop staff group chat was focused on the content of this tweet for most of the second half:
We will not let this heresy go unpunished, rest assured. This unnamed follower of Dakota will rue the day he or she denied the sheer beauty of guys on the team like Giannis, Eric Bledsoe, or Pat Connaughton.
Seriously, look at these guys!
Tony Snell back! Snell was listed as available, but only in case of emergency per Mike Budenholzer. He entered the game in the final minute, but it’s great to see that he’s capable of getting on the floor after his ankle sprain.
Reggie Jackson led the Pistons with a +/- of plus-2. Something tells me that he has that factoid tucked away, as all of his teammates were negative on the night.
Game 4 is on Monday. Let’s hope this gets closed out so the Bucks can move their focus onto their next opponent.