Griffin missed the playoff opener because of left knee soreness and the Pistons suffered a 35-point loss. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — After a 35-point bludgeoning in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks, there weren’t many things the Pistons could take from their effort. The Bucks dominated from the start and didn’t let up, even into the third quarter.
What the Pistons can take is some lesson from the other eighth seed in the playoffs, featuring the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. The Clippers erased a 31-point deficit and rallied to win, tying their series at a game each.
It was an unlikely comeback, but the Pistons saw some of the fight and intensity that was needed to stun the two-time defending champions, which is where they can draw some inspiration to improve their own effort in their series opener.
“We talked about that. We saw that epic comeback. We don’t want to get down 30 — that’s the first problem, but we used that as a thing to keep playing and keep competing at that level and good things happen,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We got to that level, but we didn’t start the game on the level that was needed.
“I take the blame for that, for not explaining the difference. If you’ve been (to the playoffs) a few times before, you know what’s about to hit you, the level of intensity you have to play at, the speed you have to play at, the hostile crowd. Game 1 should have been a great experience.”
The great experience was sullied by the huge deficit in the first quarter and the lopsided final margin. For point guard Ish Smith, the Clippers’ comeback was heartening, seeing another underdog team turn things around in difficult circumstances.
It’s a blueprint for what the Pistons can do, if they stay in the game long enough and have the fortitude to overcome a deficit.
“I saw some of the highlights and it was a crazy comeback. It’s the playoffs; you have to keep fighting and keep competing,” Smith said. “It was a heck of a game and that’s how you have to play.”
Casey indicated that there will be some adjustments for Game 2, including on the defensive end, in getting back in transition and not letting the Bucks dominate in the paint.
Although the opening loss was tough to take — and even tougher to review in film study, there are some other things to take away from the loss.
“We have to make sure we understand how it felt to get embarrassed, to get beat by number of points they beat us by — just like the Clippers did,” Casey said. “It’s great to see, because it’s the human spirit of how they came back, scrappy and getting on the floor.
“You have to respect the opponent, but not too much respect. Milwaukee is a great team, but we can’t go out there and crown them, like coach (Dennis) Green would say.”
Looking for energy
The Pistons are going to put some focus on the opening minutes of the game, looking to stop the Bucks’ transition game, but also to get going themselves with some energy on offense. Without Blake Griffin — who still is listed as questionable because of a sore left knee — they’ll have to change their offensive philosophy and run some different sets to get other guys going.
“You (have to) start better and stronger and it points to offense and shooting better,” point guard Reggie Jackson said. “It’s really just executing the game plan and we want to load up in transition defense and as long as we can do that and set up our defense, we’ll be in a good position.
“If we get beat, it’s not something that will be great for the team, but it’s intensity and effort.”
Even the second unit, which sometimes can give the Pistons a lift, couldn’t get going in Game 1. Luke Kennard was able to find his shot, but Smith and Galloway didn’t hit shots — and that lull helped the Bucks extend their lead.
The rallying cry has been intensity, and trying to match what the Bucks showed in the first few minutes and throughout the first half.
“I kick myself and I didn’t get any sleep the last couple days, simply because of the intensity of it,” Smith said. “Whether you started or came off the bench, I just look in the mirror and I didn’t play with the same intensity you’re supposed to play with in a playoff game and the same fight.
“If you lose a game putting your best foot forward and playing with everything you have, you can live with that. For me, it’s hard to sleep when you didn’t bring the fight and intensity against the best team in the NBA. It was a little frustrating but that’s why it’s Game 2.”
Game 2: Pistons at Bucks
Tip-off: 8 Wednesday, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee
TV/radio: FSD, NBA/WWJ
Outlook: The Bucks romped in the opener, behind 24 points and 17 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo. They had a 20-point lead after the first quarter and could be getting guard Tony Snell back at some point in the series. Blake Griffin (sore left knee) still is listed as questionable.