Bucks 119, Pistons 103: Last word

DETROIT | The Milwaukee Bucks took a 3-0 series lead over the Detroit Pistons with a 119-103 win Saturday in Detroit.

Player of the game: Khris Middleton

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Middleton led the Bucks with a team-high 20 points (7-13 FG, 3-6 3PT), eight rebounds and four assists. “Khris did a great job of guiding the team and making the right plays,” Giannis said.

Often overshadowed by the MVP candidate, Middleton was an all-star this season and is capable of leading Milwaukee to victory. Fans will argue whether he’s worth or not worth a max-contract this offseason but one thing you can’t argue is how important he is to the success of this team.

Play of the game: Eric Bledsoe dances through two Pistons

Bledsoe has been a match-up nightmare for the Pistons. His quickness and strength have been difficult to stop. He showcased both with this play late in the second quarter.

The good: The balance

Milwaukee got contributions from almost everywhere. Seven players scored in double figures.

“Lots of different people stepping up and playing well,” head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “George off the bench, I just think Bled’s defense and Bled’s energy, Brook, Khris, all those guys. Just a really good overall team performance tonight.”

Ersan Ilyasova got Milwaukee going in the first knocking down three shots from beyond the arc to help withstand the strong start by the Pistons. “That’s what our bench was doing all year long, including this series,” Middleton discussed. “When they come in they’re ready to play. Ers did a great job of being ready. He got three great looks from three and he knocked all of them down. Just took a lot of pressure off us, allowed us to relax, play our game and play within the flow.”

Brook Lopez poured in 19 points (8-13 FG, 3-7 3PT), seven rebounds and five blocks, four of the blocks coming against Andre Drummond. “He’s 7’8”, isn’t he,” Pistons’ head coach Dwane Casey joked when discussing Drummond’s struggles with Lopez. “A lot of people struggle against him.”

Eric Bledsoe finished with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Nikola Mirotic had his best game of the series with 12 points (3-5 3PT) contributing to Milwaukee’s 42 bench points. George Hill added 11 points and five assists.

The not so good: Giannis Antetokounmpo

For his standards, Giannis had an off night. He finished with 14 points (5-13 FG), 10 rebounds and four turnovers in 28 minutes of play. He ended up with the worst +/- of the Milwaukee starters with a -7.

“It’s good to see my team doing really well out there without me,” Giannis said. “It means a lot to me. Even when I don’t play my best game, having the team playing such a good game and winning a playoff game – on the road – it makes me feel really good about this team. It shows the great character this team has and what a great team this team is. There’s going to be nights like this and I think my teammates did a great job picking me up.”

It says a lot about this team that they can win by double-digits on the road while their star struggles. Obviously, the Bucks need the very best from Giannis if they expect to go deep in the playoffs, but Saturday’s game reinforces the fact they are more than just Giannis. Giannis is surrounded by many capable players who can perform on both ends.

Stat of the game: 1

The Bucks are one win away from their first playoff series victory since 2001. They’ve been building to this point the last few years. Two seasons ago, they lost to the Raptors in six games. Last year, they fell to the Celtics in seven games. Now, they have a chance to sweep the Pistons and move on to the second round.

“We might be the No. 1 seed and the best team in the NBA, but at the end of the day we haven’t won a playoff series in a while and we’re hungry,” Giannis said. “I think everybody’s hungry. It starts from our coach, it starts from the leader setting the tone. We’re just going to keep fighting, we’re going to keep playing hard and try to win as many games as possible.”

What they said:

Lopez on the depth of the Bucks

They can’t sleep on anyone. Our depth is a huge boon for us, it’s a huge bonus we have. We just got to keep going to that. We’ve been putting trust in a lot of different people all season long and guys have been showing why we’ve been doing that.

Casey on the loss

We made some uncharacteristic mistakes. That’s what the playoffs are about – getting through that, understanding time-score-situation. We had situations where we’d make a mistake or miss a shot, now we go down to the defensive end and not carry out our assignments.

What’s next?

The Bucks will look for the series sweep of the Pistons Monday night in Detroit. Tip-off is scheduled for 8pm eastern time.

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