Griffin's return for Pistons can't stop Bucks from taking 3-0 stranglehold in series

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo drives around Pistons' Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter. Griffin finished with 27 points, but Detroit lost 119-103 to fall behind Milwaukee 3-0 in the first-round series.

Detroit — The scene was set for the Pistons to make a statement and get back in their series against the Bucks. In their first home playoff game in three years — and their first ever at Little Caesars Arena — the Pistons had a chance to make the series closer, after two blowouts to open the series. 

After missing the first two games, Blake Griffin made his debut and energized the crowd and the Pistons, but the outcome was still the same. 

The Pistons played with a renewed energy and a surge in the first-quarter, the Bucks pulled ahead and cruised to a 119-103 victory on Saturday night before a sellout crowd at Little Caesars Arena. The Bucks took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series and can complete the sweep with a win in Game 4 on Monday. 

Griffin finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes. He wore a heavy brace under a leg sleeve and didn’t show signs of laboring on the injured left leg.

The energy that Griffin’s return brought was a boost early, but then it became hard to focus and maintain their rhythm. The juice from a burst in the first few minutes fizzled, and the Bucks capitalized. 

“We made some uncharacteristic mistakes in those situations, but those are what the playoffs are about,” coach Dwane Casey said. “(It’s about) getting through that, understanding time, score and situation, what’s going on and the next-play mentality.

“We had some situations where we would make a mistake or miss a shot and we would go to the defensive end and not carry out our assignment — again, that’s a part of growth.”

BOX SCORE: Bucks 119, Pistons 103

Reggie Jackson had 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists and Wayne Ellington 13 points and five rebounds for the Pistons, who lost their 13th straight playoff game, dating back to 2008. 

Andre Drummond (12 points and 12 rebounds) struggled on both ends of the court, going 5-of-14 from the field and having the tough assignment of guarding Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

“I came out too hyped up and I ended throwing myself off with that. it’s hard to catch my rhythm again after that,” Drummond said. “It happens to everybody; we have another one on Monday and we can’t harp on this game.” 

The Pistons jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the first two minutes, with a jumper and a drive by Luke Kennard (nine points and six rebounds). The Bucks answered with an 8-0 run, with a 3-pointer by Lopez and a three-point play and a drive by Eric Bledsoe (19 points, six rebounds and five assists). 

Jackson and Ellington  answered with back-to-back 3-pointers, but Ersan Ilyasova got going for the Bucks, with his first of three 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Griffin got his first basket, on a tip-in at 6:29 of the period. Ellington followed with a 3-pointer and the Pistons had their biggest lead, 18-13. 

The Bucks finished the quarter on a 19-6 run, with a dunk and floater by Lopez (19 points), for a 32-24 lead heading to the second quarter. 

Antetokounmpo (14 points and 10 rebounds) got going in the second, with six of their first nine points, and Griffin had nine of the Pistons’ first 11 points, but they never got the lead back. 

“(Blake) played great. To have him back was really good for us,” Drummond said. “We played the way we were supposed to and with the injury, he gave us all he could. He was definitely missed, and it was good to have him back.”

The lead moved to 67-54 at halftime and 100-78 after the third quarter.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Pistons vs. Bucks

Game 1: Bucks 121, Pistons 86

Game 2: Bucks 120, Pistons 99 

Game 3: Bucks 119, Pistons 103

Game 4: Bucks at Pistons, Monday, 8 p.m. (FSD, 950 AM)

*Game 5: Pistons at Bucks, Wednesday

*Game 6: Bucks at Pistons, Friday

*Game 7: Pistons at Bucks, Sunday, April 28

* - If necessary