DETROIT | The Milwaukee Bucks finished off the sweep of the Detroit Pistons with a 127-104 win in game four Monday night.
Player of the game: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis was determined, coming off a 14 point performance in game three. He set the tone early scoring 17 points in the first half. He finished the game with 41 points (12-23 FG, 15-20 FT), nine rebounds, three assists and four blocks.
“It starts with us being better defensively and letting everybody run and playing with them and he [Giannis] has opportunities to share with his teammates and get to the rim,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer stated. “He takes a pounding, but I think he’s built for it. I think he was great at the free-throw line, in the second half. We struggled as a team in the first half, but he kept getting to the free-throw line. Yea, Giannis was special tonight.”
Bucks fans that made the trip to Detroit waited around to cheer Giannis as he left the court. MVP chants were heard at various points throughout the night. It was good to see several fans make the trip to Detroit to cheer on the Bucks.
This will go down as one of the great performances in the career of Giannis because of the circumstances. The Bucks haven’t reached the second round of the playoffs until Giannis led them to a victory Monday night.
Play of the game: How did Giannis make this?
Monday’s game was full of highlight plays. Giannis threw down a nasty slam on his former teammate Thon Maker. Reggie Jackson had a put-back dunk to end the first half. Blake Griffin had several big-time plays, but Giannis’ double-clutch layup tops the list.
This make was shades of “A spectacular move by Michael Jordan,” from the 1991 NBA Finals.
“Giannis has been great all season in finessing at the rim,” Eric Bledsoe’s eyes lit up with excitement sharing his vantage point of the play. “It was just unbelievable, it was unbelievable.”
The good: 17-3 run to close the 3rd
Detroit started the third quarter with a 62-56 lead over Milwaukee. The momentum quickly changed as the Bucks started to find a rhythm late in the third. They finished off the frame on a 17-3 run and never looked back. Milwaukee pushed their run into the fourth, outscoring Detroit 71-42 in the second half.
“That’s an experienced team on the other end over there, like I said last time when we make mistakes, they capitalize on it,” Andre Drummond said. “Overall they’re just a really good team, tough to beat.”
Milwaukee has proved they can “flip the switch” all season long. Just when the Bucks have you (the fan) worrying about how they close the game, they step on the gas and floor it to the finish.
The not so good: The start
Give the Pistons a ton of credit. They competed and battled throughout the series. With their backs up against the wall, a desperate first half saw them answering every run made by the Bucks.
Detroit was more aggressive and played with a fire that the Bucks didn’t seem to expect. The Pistons had an advantage in second-chance points, fast-break points and were even with the Bucks in points in the paint through the first two quarters.
“Give Detroit credit for how they started,” Budenholzer said. “I’m not sure we were at our best but certainly Detroit was very, very good. The playoffs are different, I think our guys were ready, but Detroit was better than us coming out of the gate. But, credit to our players for maintaining a steady approach and I think that’s going to be key for us. We just gotta keep our focus, keep grinding on teams, keep trusting our defense and hopefully we can turn it if we don’t start well.”
Stat of the game: First playoff series win since 2001
It’s been 18 years since Milwaukee has seen the Bucks in a second-round playoff series. Soon, they will see it again. This one was especially huge for Giannis who has been knocked out of the first round three of the last four season.
“It means a lot,” Giannis said. “Being six years in the league and just to win our first playoff series with this group right here, it’s unbelievable. I think we played great basketball, we stuck together the whole series. Even when we faced adversity and they were up and we weren’t playing our best, I think we were able to just keep fighting and keep pushing as a group. It feels good to win our first playoff series together.”
What they said:
Budenholzer on the Pistons…
I have the ultimate respect for him and their players. I have the ultimate respect for Dwane [Casey] and his group. For us, I think, the way we kind of kept our focus, our defense in the second half, we responded. They threw a heck of a half at us. They were phenomenal, they came out as we expected they would. Reggie Jackson, (had) I think 20 in the first half. I think we responded in the second half, especially defensively. Our defense usually fuels our offense. We got out in transition and played in some situations we liked, and we were able to get the win.
Pistons head coach Dwane Casey on what the team took away from the series…
First of all, congratulations to the Milwaukee Bucks. They did a great job of setting the tone of how the series was going to be played. I think our guys took away how hard you have to play to compete at this level. Just like tonight, (Milwaukee) got to the line 41 times, and (Giannis) Antetokounmpo had 20 attempts, he had eight more than our entire team. That means that he was taking it in there with force, and I guess we were fouling | that is a big discrepancy for me. Again, we learn from that and we take from it; how hard you have to play and the intensity you have to play with for 48 minutes. I think that is something that will help us next year going into the season, to start through training camp, and to have this understanding of the physicality you have to play with.
In case you missed it:
*Milwaukee earned its first sweep of a seven-game series since 1983, and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2001.
*The Bucks are 7-14 all-time against Detroit in postseason play. The Pistons had won all four previous playoff series against Milwaukee prior to this series.
*Giannis scored a game-high 41 points and totaled nine rebounds and three assists. Giannis went 12-23 from the field and 15-20 from the free-throw line. He averaged 26.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks over the last four games.
*Khris Middleton (18 points) and Bledsoe (16 points) also reached double-digit scoring. Both players scored at least 14 points in all four games of the series.
*The Bucks tied the 1986 Lakers for second-highest point differential in a series sweep in NBA postseason history (+95).
The Bucks will get some time off before meeting up with the Boston Celtics in the second round. Boston defeated Milwaukee in seven games in the first round last season.