Wow. I mean, seriously. We all knew this was a one seed playing the eight seed and that it should be lopsided. What happened in the NBA playoffs the day before instilled a little skepticism that maybe Detroit could hang with Milwaukee for a majority of the game and make a run at the end. When Blake Griffin was announced as out, this seemed much less likely. But I don’t know how anyone could’ve confidently said before this game that Milwaukee will lead by 30+ points nearly half of the game. The onslaught that occurred in Fiserv Forum’s first ever playoff game resulted in a 121-86 win for the Bucks and if you can believe it, it could’ve been more.
From start to finish, from top to bottom, this was as one-sided as a playoff game could get. Each team was without one of their starters. It just so happens that Detroit is nowhere near as deep as the Bucks. With Blake out, former Buck Thon Maker was placed in his starting spot and got destroyed by Giannis and Brook Lopez the entire game. I can’t say for sure, but I think Blake could have done more than 2-10 in 22 minutes. I guess I could be wrong.
The Bucks were without Brogdon, as they have been since mid-March. Malcolm is an incredibly important piece to this year’s title run, but having a guy like Sterling Brown to fill in his starting role for this first round series can take the pressure off of Brogdon to rush the recovery process. Not to mention George Hill and Pat Connaughton have been phenomenal in Malcolm’s absence.
The biggest story, as he has been all year, was Giannis’ complete dominance on the offensive side. In only 23 minutes, Giannis racked up a stat line of 24/17/4, MVP level stats. He was primarily guarded by Maker and Andre Drummond, the Pistons’ most competent defenders for bigs like Giannis.
Regardless, Giannis forced Thon into two fouls less than two minutes into the game and Drummond got tossed from the game in the third quarter after letting his frustration bubble over and shoving Giannis on a layup attempt. Drummond’s rage was understandable. In his 26 minutes, he was a game low -45 on the court with twelve points on nine shots. Drummond is a fantastic rim defender, but the system that Coach Bud has implemented often pulls him out of position. The first play of the game showed it when Lopez received an alley-oop from Khris Middleton after Drummond slit out of the paint to guard Giannis in the corner.
Luke Kennard was the only bright spot for Detroit. He was the primary scorer by default for much of the game and finished with 21 on 8-14 from the floor. But even most of that production was due to lazy defense from a coasting Bucks team. This game was double-digits in less than half a quarter. From an analytical standpoint, there’s not a whole lot to grab from this contest. This was hardly real basketball. Without Griffin, the Pistons turned into a G-League squad without chemistry. It’s hard not to think the Bucks will need anymore than four games in this series.
One aspect of the playoffs that at least I was curious about was how Mike Budenholzer would manage the bench given who was available. For this game, Nikola Mirotic was back for the first time in a few weeks. He entered to start the second quarter but appeared to aggravate is already injured thumb and only saw minimal minutes the rest of the game.
What we did find out is that Coach Bud isn’t ready for D.J. Wilson to see serious minutes. Wilson was overlooked until midway through the third quarter. Pat, George, Ersan, and Nikola were the first four off the bench so it seems that the Bucks will run 9-deep this series until the win is in the bag. Still, Brogdon is expected back sometime in the second round and Snell should be ready soon as well so the playoff rotation is always subject to change at the discretion of Bud.
The best part for Milwaukee was the starters, except for Sterling, didn’t see the floor in the final quarter and no starter played over 25 minutes. That’s an insane accomplishment, one that hasn’t happened in a playoff win since the dynasty Spurs did it in 2006. With the existing injuries, Milwaukee can’t afford another with Boston looming next round. Ideally, the next three games go similarly to this and the Bucks can enter the second round well-rested and healthy. If Detroit is forced to play zone again in the first quarter like Sunday, it’s already over.
The Bucks hold a 1-0 series lead and will host game 2 on Wednesday night.