Bucks 127, Pistons 104: Last word

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.”

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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).

What’s next?

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.

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

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.

Deer Milwaukee: April 19, 2019

On this week’s episode of Deer Milwaukee, Cody Grant shared his thoughts on the first two games of the Bucks/Pistons first round series. Plus, he talked about why the Bucks have enough playoff experience to have a deep run. Also, Justin Garcia of WTMJ-AM 620 stopped by to talk all things Bucks including a possible second-round match-up against the Celtics and how this season has all come together for Milwaukee.

1:56 | Bucks/Pistons Games 1 & 2

8:33 | Do the Bucks have the playoff experience to make a deep run?

12:06 | Justin Garcia

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Bucks 120, Pistons 99: Last word

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks to a 2-0 series lead with a 120-99 win over the Detroit Pistons Wednesday.

Player of the game: Eric Bledsoe

Bledsoe scored a playoff-career-high 27 points on a playoff-career-high 11 made field goals (11-19 FG). Often the gritty defender for Milwaukee, Bledsoe was a go-to guy offensively Wednesday night. He always seems to be the player to score a big bucket or make a huge steal when they need it the most.

For someone who struggled in the playoffs last season, it’s great to see how much he’s turned it around this year. “I feel like for us as a team, we have players that have been on the team for a while,” Bledsoe stated. “We went through adversity, seven games last year. We know what it takes now. We are focused, so we’re trying to block everything out and focus on us, just do our job.”

Play of the game: Giannis gets back at Thon

Maker may have made the defensive play of his career stuffing Giannis at the rim. However, his glory wouldn’t last long as Giannis attacked Maker the very next play.

The two are the best of friends. Giannis even refers to Maker as his younger brother, but in the playoffs, Giannis is all business. He spoke about the sequence after the game.

I’m just trying to do my job, try to be aggressive. Obviously, Thon is 7’1”, 7’2”, long, he can block shots, that’s one of the things he does great. I tried to get him a little deeper in the paint and I was able to dunk on him. But I was just trying to do my job and make plays.

The good: Star-power at Fiserv

Several Wisconsin athletes came out to support the Bucks. Current Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and David Bakhtiari were spotted in the crowd. Also, multiple members of the Milwaukee Brewers cheered on the Deer including last year’s NL MVP Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun and Craig Counsell.

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The not so good: 2nd quarter

Milwaukee failed to outscore Detroit in only one quarter, the second (32-20). The Pistons were clicking on all cylinders offensively and defensively. They knocked down four of their seven three-point attempts and forced the Bucks to commit seven turnovers leading to nine points.

“I thought Detroit came out in the second quarter and their energy exceeded ours,” Brook Lopez discussed. “At times, their focus exceeded ours.”

It was a tough stretch for Giannis as well. He was only able to score three points and had to come out early after picking up his third foul.

This was the first time in the series that the Pistons looked like they could compete with the Bucks. They were able to find multiple open looks from downtown on drive-and-kicks. It could be a good thing for Milwaukee. Maybe the second quarter will end up being a wake-up call that they can’t play down to the level of the competition, especially in the playoffs.

The weird: Pink panther

Giannis was decked out in pink as he entered the post-game press-conference media room humming the theme to ‘Pink Panther.’ I think it’s safe to say that this team is loose and loves to have fun.

Stat of the game: 31 minutes for Pat Connaughton

Connaughton scored a playoff-career-high 18 points (8-10 FG) and hauled in a playoff-career-high nine rebounds in his 31 minutes of play. He also added four blocks and was a spark plug off the bench for the second straight game.

“It’s great when you have a little bit of pop off your bench,” Mike Budenholzer said. “I love the pop he gives us defensively. How many blocked shots did he have? He covers a lot of ground. He gets some great contests even when he doesn’t make shots. I think he bothers shooters, and he’s really great chasing and staying with guys. He mixes in making some threes and he’s going to the basket and finishing. He and I were laughing that he’s turned into our best power forward with a jump hook. He’s doing a little bit of everything.”

Connaughton has been a huge boost off the bench, especially after the injuries to Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell. It will be interesting how Budenholzer figures out the minutes once the Bucks are completely healthy.

What they said:

Bledsoe on going on the road to Detroit

Giannis said it earlier. We took care of business like we should. Now we’re going on the road playing against a tough crowd and a tough team. We’re going to go in, practice, and see what we can do better. We’re looking forward to Game 3 in Detroit.

Casey on the Pistons’ performance tonight

I thought we set the tone in the second quarter. Against a team like Milwaukee you have to do it for a longer period of time. I think we extended it long enough. It showed in the third quarter. They scored 35 points to our 17. It was our Achilles heel tonight. Again, our challenge has been extending hard play, not getting bored with doing fundamentals, not getting bored kicking the ball out, doing those things offensively. Defensively, staying solid and making sure we execute what we need to do. That’s a discipline that has to be at the top of our charts going into next game and next year.

In case you missed it:

*The Bucks took a 2-0 series lead with Wednesday night’s 120-99 win over the Pistons. This is Milwaukee’s first 2-0 lead in a playoff series since it went up 2-0 over Charlotte in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2001.

*This is the first time since 1974, and the fourth time in franchise-playoff-history, that Milwaukee has won consecutive playoff games by 20+ points.

*As a team the Bucks shot 52.2% from the field while holding the Pistons to just 37.4% shooting. This marks the 20th occasion in Bucks playoff history where Milwaukee has shot 50% or better while holding its opponent to under 40% shooting. The Bucks are 19-1 in such games.

*The Bucks hauled in 54 rebounds on the night, marking their second consecutive playoff game hauling in 50+ rebounds. This is just the fourth time in franchise-playoff-history that the Bucks have hauled in 50+ rebounds in back-to-back games (most recently in 2001).

*Giannis tallied just his fourth-career playoff game with 25+ points and 10+ rebounds, as he finished the night with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

*Middleton logged his 11th career playoff game with 20+ points as he poured in 24 points and dished out a team-high eight assists.

What’s next?

Two down, two to go as the Bucks will travel to Detroit for game three Saturday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00pm.

Pistons’ Blake Griffin could miss entire series against Bucks

If Game 1 was any indication of how the Bucks/Pistons series is going to go, Detroit needs a lot of help. The Pistons played without their star forward Blake Griffin on Sunday, and now may not have his services for the remainder of the first-round.

According to Vincent Goodwell of Yahoo Sports, Griffin is likely to miss the rest of the series.

Griffin is by far Detroit’s best player. He averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game during the regular season. Even with him in the lineup though, the Pistons aren’t expected to be able to compete with the talent of Milwaukee. However, Griffin would make a difference for the Pistons offensively.

A left-knee issue has bothered Griffin for the last several weeks and will be considered day-to-day going forward. There is no structural damage in the left-knee but it’s not clear if he’ll need some type of procedure in the offseason.

The disparity between the Bucks and Pistons is large. It looks like, at least for now, Milwaukee won’t be challenged until the second round. The Bucks haven’t gotten out of the first round of the playoffs since 2001.

Bucks 121, Pistons 86: Last word

MILWAUKEE | The Milwaukee Bucks dominated the Detroit Pistons in Game 1, winning 121 to 86.

Player of the game: Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis led the Bucks, scoring 24 points while hauling in a playoff-career-high 17 rebounds. This was his second 20-point/15-rebound playoff game of his career. His 17 rebounds are the most by a Buck in a playoff game since Ervin Johnson grabbed 17 boards on 5/28/01. Giannis did it in only 23 minutes of play.

He had a ‘take no prisoners’ approach from the get-go attacking the rim with ruthless aggression. Giannis was even seen saying “I’m f****** unstoppable,” after a take to the hole. Earlier this season he was caught saying “I’m the f****** MVP,” after throwing down a dunk on the 76ers’ Ben Simmons. It’s hard to argue with either one of those statements.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer shared his thoughts on Giannis having another big performance.

Its what we have been seeing from Giannis all year. I think he has prepared himself. He is ready, and he expects a lot of himself. He delivers a lot of the time.

Play of the game: He took off from where?!

Dunks are still the most exciting play in basketball. Giannis threw down a slam that had the entire Fiserv Forum crowd on their feet Sunday night. He took off from near the free-throw line.

Michael Jordan got a 50 in the Dunk Contest from his free-throw line dunk, but you don’t normally see that in a game, a playoff game for that matter.

The good: The focus

Focus has been one constant for Milwaukee this entire season and they didn’t lack any in Game 1. From the starters to the bench, the Bucks were determined to make a statement that they are here to dominate.

We all knew coming into this series that the Pistons can’t match-up with the talent-level of the Bucks. However, upsets can happen if the superior team takes the inferior team lightly. It happened to Philadelphia, Toronto and Denver on Saturday as they all fell in game one of their respective series.

Detroit didn’t match Milwaukee’s intensity and it showed. If the Pistons can’t up their competitiveness, there will be more of the same moving forward.

Budenholzer talked about the focus of his group.

I think the focus of the group and the defensive effort stands out. It’s not easy when you don’t get to play the last couple of games, the last game, or you don’t have a lot of time between games. So, I think the guys have built up a lot of readiness or whatever word you want to use. It’s a good win for us. Now, we just have to be humble and get ready for the second game and take the focus into game two.

The not so good: Was there any?

It’s hard to find areas of the game that the Bucks weren’t good in. However, one thing that wasn’t so good was Andre Drummond’s flagrant foul on Giannis. As the two were going for a rebound, Drummond shoved Giannis to the ground. He was ejected after being assigned a Flagrant 2.

The weird: Bucks vs Thon Maker

Maker described playing against his former team as “Weird,” prior to tip-off. Maker had a rough showing in the game as well. He had the assignment of defending his good friend and NBA MVP candidate, Giannis.

Giannis spoke about playing against his former teammate.

Of course it feels weird. Thon is my little brother. I’ve known him since he came to the league. We’ve been friends. At the end of the day, I know he’s a competitor. I know he’s going to come out here and do whatever it takes to help his team win. That’s what he did tonight. At the end of the day, both of us aren’t going to take anything for granted.

Stat of the game: 28

28 minutes was the team-high for the Bucks on Sunday and it was held by Pat Connaughton. Who would’ve thought that Connaughton would lead the Bucks in minutes, and they would win a playoff game by 35 points?

Budenholzer has done a terrific job all season long managing the minutes of his players. It goes to show you the amount of depth this team has.

Middleton talked about the minutes he and Giannis played and Connaughton being the minutes leader.

If we win like that, for sure. We’ve had a lot of games this year where we haven’t played a lot of minutes. That just means the team is doing their job, as a group. Guys are coming in off the bench, starters are doing their job. If Pat’s leading us in minutes and we’re winning these ball games, I don’t think anyone is going to complain, especially Pat.

What they said:

Khris Middleton on the offensive contributions form the whole team

It’s great. I think it’s been like that for most of the year. I know I can take tough shots and play with an offense. Tonight, the guys were great. Giannis did a great job of starting us off right and being in an aggressive attack mode. Everybody else, we just made plays and knocked down shots.

Giannis on if they sent the message they wanted to send in Game 1

I think we did a great job setting the tone, playing hard playing together. The Pistons are a really good team, but we knew we needed to set the tone, and we were able to get a win tonight.

Pistons head coach Dwane Casey on the game not going the Pistons’ way

They’re a great team. We didn’t meet the level of physicality. Then we got some cheap fouls, but we have to get up to their speed of the game. They’re averaging 117 [points per game]. We were all over the map defensively. We didn’t get anything done. We have another level we have to get to with our intensity and physicality, because they’re coming through with balance. We have to get our level of competitiveness up to start the game, because you can’t let a great team like this get that many points early and expect to get back into it.

In case you missed it:

*The Bucks took a 1-0 series lead with Sunday’s wire-to-wire 121-86 victory over the Pistons. Milwaukee’s 35-point win marks the third-largest playoff win in franchise history.

*Milwaukee’s 70 first-half points are the second-most first half points in Bucks playoff history (77 in Game 3 of the 1970 Eastern Division Semifinals at PHI) and were the most in any playoff half by the Bucks since the second half of Game 3 of the 1987 First Round at Philadelphia (73 points)

*As a team the Bucks hauled in 54 rebounds, marking just their third playoff game with 50 + rebounds since the 2000-01 season.

*The Bucks had seven players score in double figures Sunday night, their most in a playoff game in the last 20 seasons.

What’s next?

The Bucks will look to take a 2-0 series lead in Game 2 against the Pistons on Wednesday.

Deer Milwaukee: April 12, 2019

On this week’s episode of Deer Milwaukee, Cody Grant looked back at the best moments of the Milwaukee Bucks’ regular season. Also, he gave his predictions for the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

Plus, Bart Winkler of 105.7FM The Fan stopped by to share his thoughts on the Bucks’ chances in the playoffs, his least favorite Bucks’ takes and his favorite Bradley Center memory.

1:56 | Best moments of the regular season

5:01 | First round predictions

15:43 | Bart Winkler

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