Auburn Hills — The Pistons are holding out a flicker of hope that Blake Griffin could return and play in the first-round playoff series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Griffin missed Sunday’s series opener because of continuing issues with his left knee and was out for four of the last seven regular-season games. The Pistons lost Game 1 by 35 points and clearly missed Griffin.
The notion that Griffin will sit out the series seems to be on hold — at least in the short term. Griffin is proceeding in practice as if he still has a chance to play.
“He worked out today and he’s lobbying and he wants to play. It’s the medical staff and doctors who are making those decisions — not me, not Blake,” coach Dwane Casey said after Monday’s practice. “That’s what we’ll work with. People (hear) soreness and say he can play, but the doctors are telling him what his body can do and not do — and that’s who’s making the decisions.
“We have an excellent medical staff. I’m not qualified to tell him when to play and not to play in those situations.”
Without their leading scorer, the Pistons didn’t mount much offense in the early minutes, and defensively they didn’t have an answer for the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, who lived in the lane and scored 24 points in 23 minutes.
It’s not that the Pistons would have won Game 1 with Griffin, but he certainly gives them a better shot. Whether that next-best-shot comes in Game 2 on Wednesday or Game 3 on Saturday in Detroit is unclear.
“We need all hands on deck and he wants to play. When his body says he’s ready — whether it’s Wednesday night or Saturday night, whenever it is, he’ll be available,” Casey said. “I don’t think you can worsen it. I don’t think that’s (the medical staff's) mindset. They just want him to be 100 percent when he steps out there.”
Griffin said on Sunday night that sitting out wasn’t his decision, implying that there were several other opinions that were contributing to him not playing. He indicated that his frustration level is “10” and that he wants to get back on the court.
If he is able to play in the series, the schedule is favorable for Griffin to have some recovery time. Heading into Game 2, he would have seven days of rest and that would extend to 10 days on Saturday if he’s held out on Wednesday.
“It’s obviously, very, very frustrating. You sacrifice your body throughout the year and play through little injuries to get to this point,” Griffin said. “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 is in the second season of his five-year deal, so there clearly would be some consideration for keeping him out until he can be closer to 100 percent and able to contribute at a consistent level. If he were to play one or two games, it might not impact the series greatly, so the risk may not match the potential benefit.
Griffin missed the playoff opener because of left knee soreness and the Pistons suffered a 35-point loss. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Pistons vs. Bucks
Game 1: Bucks 121, Pistons 86
Game 2: Pistons at Bucks, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (FSD, 950 AM)
Game 3: Bucks at Pistons, Saturday, 8 p.m. (FSD, 97.1 FM)
Game 4: Bucks at Pistons, April 22, 8 p.m. (FSD, 950 AM)
*Game 5: Pistons at Bucks, April 24
*Game 6: Bucks at Pistons, April 26
*Game 7: Pistons at Bucks, April 28
* - if necessary