Bucks can’t afford another second-half slump

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MILWAUKEE (AP)—Down 2-1 in a best-of-seven playoff series, the Milwaukee Bucks are not quite in a must-win situation against the Detroit Pistons.

Don’t try convincing coach Terry Porter of that.

“We’ve got to win the game Monday. It’s a three-game series at that point,” Porter said Sunday. “It becomes very difficult at that point if we lose Monday to try to win three games.”

To get that crucial win, the Bucks must avoid a repeat of Saturday’s third-quarter meltdown.

Detroit opened the second half of Game 3 with a 23-4 run on its way to a 95-85 win. The Bucks missed their first seven shots in the third, while the Pistons hit 9-of-12 from the field.

Milwaukee battled back to within one in the fourth, but Detroit held the Bucks to just a free throw over the final four minutes to pull away.

“I wasn’t real impressed at halftime. I don’t think any of us were,” Pistons coach Larry Brown said.

The Pistons allowed 85 points despite just seven Milwaukee turnovers, thanks in large part to the Bucks’ poor shooting.

After jumping on Detroit for 30 first-quarter points, the Bucks shot 27.5 percent in the second half.

“We looked like, hey, this could be a terrible day and we turned it into a great win,” Brown said.

While the Bucks are looking for a better second-half effort in Game 4, the Pistons are hoping for an improved start.

Ben Wallace, who finished with 13 points and 21 rebounds, missed much of the first half after getting two quick fouls.

Brown credited Mehmet Okur for taking Wallace’s place and keeping the Pistons close. But he said the key is keeping Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace on the court.

They accounted for 32 of the Pistons’ 52 rebounds Saturday. With Ben Wallace out, the Bucks built a 12-point lead.

“It’s like having a pacifier for me when those two guys are out there,” Brown said. “You’ve got to understand they can play against big guys and they can play against their small lineup.”

Porter said the Bucks would make no major adjustments going into Game 4.

He said they just need to hit open shots and get some easy baskets, which they didn’t do down the stretch Saturday.

Toni Kukoc missed a wide-open 3-pointer with the Bucks down just three in the final minutes, Brevin Knight had his shot blocked on their next possession and the Bucks started hoisting jumpers as the game slipped away.

They can hardly afford to let another go on their home floor.

aid coaches told them to slow down the offense to allow screens to work and free up easy shots after missing their final nine from the field Saturday.

“There is no desperation for us,” Milwaukee’s Desmond Mason said. “We know it’s an important game, but there is no desperation.”

His coach might disagree.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Detroit
C. Billups C. Billups
5-14,  21 Pts
2 Rebs, 7 Assists
 Milwaukee
D. Jones D. Jones
5-11,  14 Pts
6 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists