Bucks roll past Pistons 121-86 in series opener

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo ran and dunked all over the Pistons until they just shoved him to the ground.

The team with the NBA’s best record wanted to show it can make a long playoff run, and the Detroit Pistons were helpless to slow them down.

“I don’t know if they were ready for us,” Antetokounmpo said. “But we just try to focus on ourselves. We just try to play with pace, run to our spots and try to make plays.”

Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes, and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 121-86 victory last Sunday night in the opener of their first-round playoff series.

Seven players scored in double figures for the Bucks, who led by as many as 43 points. Their 35-point margin was the third-largest in the franchise’s playoff history.

Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots against multiple Detroit Pistons defenders. – AP

The Pistons only really caught up to Antetokounmpo when centre Andre Drummond shoved him to the ground with both hands late in the third quarter, after the MVP candidate grabbed an offensive rebound with Detroit trailing by 41 points.

Drummond was given a flagrant two foul and ejected. He blew a kiss to the Fiserv Forum crowd as he was escorted off the court.

“As a team we talked about it, to try to keep our composure whenever the opposing team tries to foul us hard or tries to hit us or play dirty,” Antetokounmpo said. “Obviously, I’m not going to look to the referees for protection. I’ve just got to play smart and try to avoid the situations.”

Antetokounmpo was only five of 12 on free throws and one of five from three-point range, but was nine for 17 from the field.

Eric Bledsoe had 15 points, and Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton each added 14 for the Bucks. George Hill scored 16 points off the bench.

“We were all over the map defensively and didn’t get anything done,” coach Dwane Casey said of the Pistons, who allowed 70 first-half points and trailed by 27 at intermission.

“We have another level we have to get to with our intensity and physicality, because they’re coming through there with balance, Euro-stepping, throwing elbows and stuff like this.

“We have to get our level of competitiveness up to start the game, because you can’t spot a great team like this that many points and expect to get back into it.”

Luke Kennard paced the Pistons with 21 points off the bench and Drummond had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Reggie Jackson also had 12 points. Detroit played without forward Blake Griffin, who sat out with a left knee injury.

Detroit shot 38 per cent from the field and went eight of 27 from three-point distance.

“I think it was top-notch today,” Bledsoe said of the Bucks’ defensive performance. “Brook was protecting the paint all night. We were getting steals, playing our game and getting out in transition. We started early so that helped us out.”

The Bucks sank 15 three-pointers, just one shy of tying a playoff high, and compiled 31 assists on 44 made field goals.

Drummond got the defensive assignment on Antetokounmpo after Thon Maker got in early foul trouble trying to stop him.

“I have watched that kid since he got drafted so I know his game like the back of my hand,” Drummond said. “He is just going to put his head down and keep driving in there. (The plan) is to make him take tough shots, take charges when he does try to bulldog his way in, force him to take three-point shots, and if we do foul him, foul him as hard as possible.”

Griffin was issued a technical foul for protesting Drummond’s ejection. Casey said he understood what the referees were doing to keep control of the game but thought a flagrant 1 foul would have been more appropriate.

“I think it was a flagrant but I don’t think Andre deserved to be out the rest of the game,” Griffin said. “At least that is my opinion in real time.”