Praise Giannis Milwaukee Bucks fans, for he will lead us from darkness and into prosperity. That certainly was the case against the Detroit Pistons, as his playoff career-high effort led to a 127-104 victory to close out the Bucks first playoff series win since 2001. It wasn’t a pretty start for the Bucks, but they regained momentum from the Pistons and worked back within a 28-26 game after the first quarter. Despite several highlight plays from Giannis Antetokounmpo throughout the second, the Pistons quelled the storm with sweet shooting and led 62-56 at half. Milwaukee found its way into the lead after the third with a flurry of free throw makes, nabbing a 95-85 advantage. The fourth quarter turned into a rout and the backups were in once again as the final period ticked away.
The Giannis Game
He finally eclipsed the 30-minute mark for the first time in this series and he took full advantage of it. En route to a playoff career-high 41 points, including a terrifying 15-20 from the free throw line, Giannis Antetokoumpo absolutely placed his stamp on this early postseason run. Nothing could be more fitting for the Bucks to finally shed the baggage of 18 years of playoff mediocrity than Giannis putting this team literally on his back in the third quarter and driving them to victory over the Pistons. I feel fortunate to be witnessing his Playoff ascension. I can’t think of a better narrative heading into the prolonged break than Giannis beasting the Pistons. Stew on that Celtics fans.
Threes - the Old Fashioned Way
It was an and-one spree in the third quarter for the Bucks with Middleton and Bledsoe getting in on the action to help the Bucks keep chipping away at the Pistons lead the old-fashioned way. The Pistons continued to toss in little runners during that stretch, with Blake leading the way, so consistent points near the tin was critical to keeping this one close. Later in the period, Giannis got into it too, toppling over Thon Maker to grab a blocking foul, answering Blake Griffin’s back-to-back triples. Critically, the Bucks shook off the rust they had from the charity stripe in the first half too. After going 14-23 from the line through two quarters, they went 14-15 in the third alone.
The Nimble Mountain
Who would’ve guessed that Brook Lopez would come to epitomize the “pass, dribble, shoot” ethos Bud injected into this team? His lethargic drives to the hoop, complete with middle school style low dribbling to the ground, has been one of the most enjoyable parts of this entire Bucks season. He continued the delightful moments tonight in a tight crab dribble around Reggie Jackson, before spinning and finding his way at the hoop for a lay-up and finish. His ability as a sole offensive catalyst at points throughout this season will inevitably be necessary as the Playoffs proceed if other teams try to snuff out the Bucks other offensive weapons.
Bonus Bucks Bits
Andre Drummond certainly played his most engaged ball he has all series to start tonight, gathering a steal and really selling a flop during a Brook Lopez post-up. That early stretch gave them a 7-point advantage, their largest of the series to that point. He was decent for the first time.
I didn’t think this seemed that dirty in real time by Ersan Ilyasova, but you hate to see him putting anyone else in a position to get hurt like Griffin seemed to here. Thankfully, he was able to come back in.
Pistons game to play tonight pic.twitter.com/7euX3Dk53Y— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) April 23, 2019
After Giannis’s quiet game three, Milwaukee smartly got out to run in transition to get him going in the first quarter. While he missed a couple gimmies at the free throw line, it was a proper way to help him get his swagger back without having to work within the machinations of a halfcourt set where the Pistons were shoveling defenders to the rim.
Is Thon Maker the new Aron Baynes? We won’t have to wait long to find out...
The foulfest that occurred late in the second quarter might’ve led to some of the least watchable, herky-jerky sequences of basketball in the series yet. The fact it disrupted a series of both teams stroking it flamethrower style made it all the more sad.
I am without speech.
Tough night - and series - for Thon Maker, who was a foul magnet in the game, racking them up like it was a Summer League contest or something as Giannis went after him again and again. Him not hitting a three for the entire series is a tough look. The legend of Playoff Thon has faded from memory.
This was a terrifying moment, but thankfully he came back into the game early in the fourth and notched three blocks on the Pistons.
Looks like it's his lower back that is getting the attention. https://t.co/r3RNoGa4lm— Eric Nehm (@eric_nehm) April 23, 2019
Eric Bledsoe was an absolute demon going at the Pistons at the rim in the second half. Obviously his speed is a massive advantage, but his brute strength and ability to fend off defenders as he finishes at the rim is sterling. He kept Blake Griffin at his hip in transition and was able to avoid getting blocked while laying it in. Just an insane effort by him getting to the paint this game.
Tony Snell made his first return to game action since that nasty ankle sprain that kept him out of the end of the regular season.
Never forget that Tim Frazier was able to play in every single Playoff game this series.