The Milwaukee Bucks finished with the best record in the NBA and might be adding the MVP and Coach of the Year awards to the list of accomplishments. But their focus now is on winning the East and booking a spot in the NBA Finals. The Detroit Pistons, who limped into the postseason, are unlikely to be much of a hurdle in the first round. Here’s what you need to know about this series.
The central storylines
Blake Griffin’s knee injury has surfaced at the worst possible moment for the Pistons, potentially taking away their biggest weapon. If Griffin does play, he is likely to be less than 100% - a nightmare scenario when trying to guard Antetokounmpo. That puts the onus on Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith to be the creators for Detroit.
The Bucks have shown very few flaws this season but the fact remains that this group has not won a playoff series yet – and Antetokounmpo has not been able to drag the team past the first round yet. While that is expected to change over the next week or so, there could be a few early nerves. (Spare a thought for Dwane Casey who ran into the LeBron James barrier while in Toronto and now sees the Greek Freak looming this year.)
Keep an eye on the injury report, but Malcolm Brogdon (foot) is expected to miss most, if not all, of this series. Nikola Mirotic (thumb) is on his way back while Tony Snell (ankle) may not be 100%. While Milwaukee’s depth may not be fully tested in this round, Brogdon’s absence is significant.
The key matchup – Antetokounmpo vs. Griffin
Antetokounmpo won this duel emphatically in the regular season, scoring at will and holding Griffin to some rough shooting nights. The Bucks star’s length is the perfect antidote for Griffin’s three-point shooting and post skills, and he draws plenty of fouls with his drives to the basket. The Pistons could also try Andre Drummond on Antetokounmpo for some extra length and physicality, or Thon Maker.
Regular season clashes
4-0 to the Bucks. While they have not played each other since January, Milwaukee certainly appear to have Detroit’s number. The Pistons have since added Wayne Ellington whose shooting will be critical in this series, but it is tough to see how Detroit can win the backcourt battle given how well Eric Bledsoe and former Piston Khris Middleton have played this year.
Bucks in 4. Milwaukee have the perfect roster to limit Detroit’s strengths and their defense is going to make it tough for the Pistons to reach 100 points. The thirst to win a first series together should propel the Bucks to a ruthless sweep.