Antetokounmpo, Bucks pound Pistons 121-86 in opener

  • Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks during the second half of Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Detroit Pistons Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 121-86 (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo ran and dunked all over the Pistons until they just shoved him to the ground.

The team with the NBA’s best record wanted to show it can make a long playoff run, and the Detroit Pistons were helpless to slow them down.

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“I don’t know if they were ready for us,” Antetokounmpo said. “But we just try to focus on ourselves. We just try to play with pace, run to our spots and try to make plays.”

Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes, and the Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 121-86 victory on Sunday night in the opener of their first-round playoff series.

Seven players scored in double figures for the Bucks, who led by as many as 43 points. Their 35-point margin was the third-largest in the franchise’s playoff history.

The Pistons only really caught up to Antetokounmpo when center Andre Drummond shoved him to the ground with both hands late in the third quarter, after the MVP candidate grabbed an offensive rebound with Detroit trailing by 41 points.

Drummond was given a flagrant 2 foul and ejected. He blew a kiss to the Fiserv Forum crowd as he was escorted off the court.

“As a team we talked about it, to try to keep our composure whenever the opposing team tries to foul us hard or tries to hit us or play dirty,” Antetokounmpo said. “Obviously, I’m not going to look to the referees for protection. I’ve just got to play smart and try to avoid the situations.”

Antetokounmpo was only 5 of 12 on free throws and 1 of 5 from 3-point range, but was 9 for 17 from the field.

Eric Bledsoe had 15 points, and Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton each added 14 for the Bucks. George Hill scored 16 points off the bench.

“We were all over the map defensively and didn’t get anything done,” coach Dwane Casey said of the Pistons, who allowed 70 first-half points and trailed by 27 at intermission. “We have another level we have to get to with our intensity and physicality, because they’re coming through there with balance, Euro-stepping, throwing elbows and stuff like this.

“We have to get our level of competitiveness up to start the game, because you can’t spot a great team like this that many points and expect to get back into it.”

Luke Kennard paced the Pistons with 21 points off the bench and Drummond had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Reggie Jackson also had 12 points. Detroit played without forward Blake Griffin, who sat out with a left knee injury.

Detroit shot 38% from the field and went 8 of 27 from 3-point distance (29.6.

“I think it was top-notch today,” Bledsoe said of the Bucks’ defensive performance. “Brook was protecting the paint all night. We were getting steals, playing our game and getting out in transition. We started early so that helped us out.”

The Bucks sank 15 3-pointers, just one shy of tying a playoff high, and compiled 31 assists on 44 made field goals.

Drummond got the defensive assignment on Antetokounmpo after Thon Maker got in early foul trouble trying to stop him.

“I have watched that kid since he got drafted so I know his game like the back of my hand,” Drummond said. “He is just going to put his head down and keep driving in there. (The plan) is to make him take tough shots, take charges when he does try to bulldog his way in, force him to take 3-point shots, and if we do foul him, foul him as hard as possible.”

ROCKETS 122, JAZZ 90

HOUSTON — James Harden had 29 points and 10 assists to help Houston rout Utah in the opener of a best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

The Rockets had a double-digit lead for most of the game, but the Jazz got within five points midway through the third quarter before Houston used a big run to pull away and sail to the victory.

Houston’s starting lineup helped carry the scoring load on Sunday night, with each starter scoring at least 10 points. Eric Gordon had 17, Clint Capela scored 16, Chris Paul added 14 and P.J. Tucker had 11.

Rudy Gobert had 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jazz. Donovan Mitchell had 19 points, but did not have an assist as the Jazz went long stretches without scoring.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Houston.

TRAIL BLAZERS 104, THUNDER 99

PORTLAND, Ore. — Damian Lillard scored 30 points and third-seeded Portland opened its playoff series against No. 6 Oklahoma City with a victory.

Enes Kanter added 20 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who were making their sixth straight postseason appearance. CJ McCollum added 24 points.

Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds after a slow start.

CELTICS 84, PACERS 74

BOSTON — Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 points, and Boston rallied in the second half to beat Indiana in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points. Al Horford added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. It was the first playoff game since 2017 for Irving and Hayward after each missed last year’s postseason with injuries.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.

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The Pacers led by 11 points in the first half but had just eight points in the third quarter. The Celtics capitalized and led by as many as 22 in the fourth. Indiana scored 29 points in the second half, and the quarter and half were both its worst of the season.

Cory Joseph had 14 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic was the lone Pacers starter in double figures with 12 points.

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