Blake Griffin's uncertain status adds intrigue to first Pistons' playoff series in 3 years

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Pistons forward Blake Griffin's sore left knee limited him to 18 minutes in the team's final regular-season home game against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Auburn Hills — Will he or won’t he?

There seems to be as much uncertainty about Blake Griffin’s status for Game 1 of the first-round playoffs series against the Bucks as there is about what will happen in Sunday’s wildly anticipated episode of “Game of Thrones.” 

The drama is building for the Pistons, who are making their first playoff appearance since 2016 and are looking for their first victory in a playoff series in 11 years. Without Griffin, who is has a sore left knee, it’s going to be an uphill battle. 

Griffin was able to do some light work after practice on Friday and walked on a treadmill during the last portion that was open to media. He didn’t shed much light on his status for Sunday’s series opener, which would give him four days’ rest.

“We’re taking this day by day. I’m not looking forward to a day that’s not here right now in front of me,” Griffin said after Saturday’s practice. “I’ll sit with our training staff and whoever else needs to be in on that decision and make that each day (of the series).” 

It’s unclear how much Griffin has ben able to participate in practices and how much he’ll be able to help the Pistons in the series. His potential absence or possibly playing at less than 100 percent is magnified because of his counterpart, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the defensive problems he creates. 

Griffin appears to be working as if he’ll play at least some in the series, but if his last game, against Memphis on Tuesday, is any indication, playing to his usual level will be a challenge. With five days’ rest, Griffin scored 45 points against the Thunder on April 5. 

It’s been a struggle since then. 

“I’m just preparing, doing everything our training staff asks of me,” Griffin said. “Just making sure overall I’m locked in and I’m in our walkthroughs and everything we need to be locked in on for these games for is going smoothly. 

The Pistons obviously are a different team without Griffin and will have to make adjustments, whether he’s less than 100 percent or doesn’t play at all. They could miss the mismatches he creates with his isolation play and look to use him more as a distributor, finding 3-point shooters and cutters. 

More than that, it’s the spirit he brings and the attention he pulls from the defense. Even with him on the court, the Bucks will have to respect whatever he can do. 

“When you lose him and don’t have him going into Game 1, it’s a huge blow but we all have to step up defensively and offensively and rebounding and all the voids for him not being there,” guard Ish Smith said. “We just have to play; can’t overthink it. Obviously, it’s a void but once that ball tips, you have to play.”

 With or without Griffin, the Pistons are looking to show that they belong in the series and can stay with the Bucks. In two of the four regular-season meetings, Milwaukee won by 23 points, plus another 10-point win. 

The postseason can be different, as shown by the Nets and Magic, both of whom were lower-seeded teams won on Saturday. The Pistons are looking to continue the trend. 

“Game 1 sets the tone and we know the intensity is going to be high. We know there are going to be a lot of runs that they’ll go on and we’re going to have to sustain it and be standing up at the end. We have to be aggressive and push it and press it,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a great challenge but it’s not a challenge that we’re running away from.”

Pistons at Bucks

Tipoff: 7 Sunday, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee

TV/radio: FSD and TNT/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons are trying for their first win in a playoff game since 2008 in just their second appearance since that year. Blake Griffin (sore left knee) is listed as questionable after missing the regular-season finale.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard