'Very frustrating': Blake Griffin misses opener, return still unclear
Milwaukee — Even with Blake Griffin, the Pistons’ chances against the Bucks in the playoff series were slim. Without him, it’s a steeper hill to climb.
Griffin missed the series opener and after Sunday's 35-point loss at Fiserv Forum, it’s still not clear whether Griffin will play at all in the series. What is getting clearer is that the situation with Griffin’s injured knee is more complex than first thought.
“Obviously, it’s very, very frustrating. You sacrifice your body throughout the year and play through little injuries to get to this point,” Griffin said after the game. “Obviously, very frustrated. I never like to feel like I’m leaving my guys out there.
“I have to do what our organization, our training staff, our doctors think is best — and that’s the bottom line.”
Griffin has been listed as questionable on the injury report for the past couple weeks. After missing three games, he returned for three games, but has been listed with “left knee soreness” on the report. That’s a nebulous designation, but Griffin said that he’s not choosing himself to sit out the games he’s missed.
Griffin said his frustration level is “10 out of 10” and pain isn’t the only problem that’s keeping him out of the lineup.
“I don’t have a great answer to that. It’s a complicated answer. If it was pain, I would easily play with pain. It’s a complication situation,” Griffin said. “If it was just my decision, I would have played.”
Griffin said his status remains day-to-day and that he will continue to work to see if he can play in the series.
“I’m taking it day by day — I’ve said that from the beginning,” Griffin said. “Everybody has to agree on it. We’ll see (Monday).”
Casey is the first coach to go from coach of the year one season to leading a different team to the playoffs the following season. Even with the change, Casey said making the playoffs this year was a good starting point after getting to the postseason just once in the previous decade.
While Game 1 was as lopsided as many had projected, the Pistons are getting some playoff experience, which could be more valuable down the road, just as it was for the Bucks during their development process.
“Getting into the playoffs was a short-term goal. Our long-term goal is to continue to build our foundation and what we’re starting,” Casey said. “We’re not in the class of where Milwaukee is in terms of our program right now. They were (not where they are now) two or three years ago. I came in here a couple years ago and coached against them and they were just getting started and building what they have now.
“The patience has paid off for them; we’re in the same position. It’s a great start and great experience for us to come in and play against a great team like Milwaukee.”
Casey praised Antetokounmpo’s development in the past couple years. Since Casey’s Raptors eliminated the Bucks a few years ago, Antetokounmpo has ascended to an MVP level and with the way he’s playing, could claim his first award this season.
“He is a different player now. He has grown and it has happened naturally with time being on his side,” Casey said. “You add a player like (Brook) Lopez, who is very versatile and can shoot the threes. They’ve added George Hill with that group and a lot of great pieces.
"The patience has paid off for them in a good way. That’s the same thing we’re trying to do here in Detroit and get to that level with our growth and young players.”
... With the new Fiserv Forum hosting the first two games of the series and Little Caesars Arena getting Games 3 and 4, at least, both arenas are hosting playoff games for the first time.
The Bucks just moved into their new arena after being in the Bradley Center across the street for years. The Pistons, having not hosted a playoff game since moving from The Palace of Auburn Hills two years ago, will get their first playoff action at LCA on Saturday.