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