Led by Blake Griffin, who played a second straight game on a bum left knee, the Detroit Pistons played inspired basketball, and it still wasn’t enough to come anywhere close to beating Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Antetokounmpo, the favorite for the league’s MVP award, scored 41 points on 23 shots in a 127-104 victory against the Pistons on Monday night. The Bucks completed a clean first-round sweep, beating Detroit by at least 16 points in each of their four meetings and setting up a second-round series with the Boston Celtics.
The Pistons actually led 82-78 with five minutes left in the third quarter, when coach Dwane Casey spelled Griffin and Reggie Jackson for the stretch run. Unfortunately, that sprint to the finish never came, as Milwaukee outscored Detroit 37-8 over the next 12 minutes to take a 115-90 lead and drive a stake through the Pistons’ heart.
Griffin, who looked to be playing through significant pain at times, finished with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds. Detroit outscored Milwaukee by two points in the 28 minutes he was on the floor. He was good. Antetokounmpo was better.
The Bucks star added nine rebounds, four blocks and three assists. Each of his 12 buckets — 10 at the rim and two 3-pointers — made the highlight reel. Even when Pistons center Andre Drummond had Giannis dead to rights, he still found the net:
As stunned as Drummond was to see that shot fall, the rest of Detroit was frustrated with Antetokounmpo’s ability to get to the line. He attempted 20 free throws, eight more than the entire Pistons roster. That caught the attention of Casey and Detroit guard Luke Kennard, both of whom received technical fouls. Griffin even participated when the Pistons crowd began a “ref, you suck” chant.
No amount of whistles was going to save Detroit, though. Milwaukee is a vastly superior team, with arguably the game’s best player at the helm, and now the Celtics must deal with Antetokounmpo and the freakish array of highlights to come.
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