Giannis Antetokounmpo adjusts to lead Milwaukee Bucks to win over Detroit Pistons, 120-99
By RICH ROVITO
MILWAUKEE — Saddled with early foul trouble and faced with an aggressive defensive scheme that kept him in check for the first two quarters, Giannis Antetokounmpo set the tone immediately in the second half.
Antetokounmpo scored 13 of his 26 points in Milwaukee’s big third quarter and the Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons 120-99 on Wednesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
After scoring 10 points and playing only 14 minutes in the first half, Antetokounmpo scored Milwaukee’s first seven points in the third quarter.
“It is about will,” Antetokounmpo said. “I knew they were going to put guys in the paint, crowd me. I just tried to have patience.”
As the Bucks took the court after halftime, Eric Bledsoe had some words of advice for the team’s leader.
“Eric told me, ‘Be aggressive, it is going to come.’ That is what I tried to do,” Antetokounmpo said.
The Bucks outscored Detroit 35-17 in the period to take a 93-76 lead into the fourth.
“I don’t think he felt great about how he played in the first half,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said about Antetokounmpo. “When he feels that way, he’s going to do something to change it.”
Bledsoe led the Bucks with 27 points, and Khris Middleton had 24. Milwaukee is trying to win a series for the first time since 2001.
Luke Kennard had 19 points for Detroit. Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond each added 18, and Drummond had 16 rebounds. Detroit star Blake Griffin sat out again with a left knee injury, but received a technical for the second straight game for arguing from the bench.
“For the most part, we came out and competed and we definitely made them feel us,” Jackson said.
Game 3 is Saturday in Detroit.
Detroit clawed within seven in the fourth before the Bucks put it away, capped by a hard drive by Antetokounmpo on a break. He banked in an awkward reverse-angle shot while crashing to the floor after being fouled by Drummond. He completed the three-point play to make it 105-87.
After falling behind early, Detroit battled back in the second quarter, finally taking a 57-56 lead on Jackson’s jumper with 28 seconds left. Bledsoe briefly put the Bucks back in front, but Jackson closed the half with a layup to give Detroit a 59-58 lead.
“I thought we set the tone in the second quarter,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “Our challenge has been extending hard play, not getting bored with fundamentals, not getting bored kicking the ball out, doing those things offensively.”