Basketball / NBA

Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 41 on Pistons as Bucks complete first-round sweep

AP

Giannis Antetokounmpo drove to the basket and drew yet another foul, this one a hard hack on the arm by Blake Griffin.

Griffin fouled out and headed to the bench, and the home crowd gave him a standing ovation. Then many fans headed toward the exits.

Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks were on their way to another rout against Detroit.

Antetokounmpo scored 41 points, and the Bucks beat Detroit 127-104 on Monday night, completing a four-game sweep of the Pistons and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The last time Milwaukee won a postseason series, the Bucks made it all the way to the conference finals. This year’s team isn’t there yet, but so far Milwaukee looks the part of the top seed in the East.

“I remember our first playoff series (in 2015),” Antetokounmpo said. “Chicago, the last game, Game 6, they beat us by 50 or something insane. But where we were and where we are right now, it’s been an unbelievable journey.”

Milwaukee closed the third quarter with a 17-3 run, taking a 10-point lead into the fourth after the Pistons had led much of the way. Detroit set an NBA record with its 14th consecutive playoff loss, a skid that began in 2008.

The Bucks will face Boston in the second round. The Celtics are coming off a sweep of their own against Indiana.

“I think it’s important that we take a second tonight. Enjoy it,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It’s a good night for Milwaukee. It’s a good night for the Bucks.”

Reggie Jackson scored 20 of his 26 points in the first half for Detroit. Griffin fouled out with 7:06 remaining after scoring 22. Griffin missed the first two games of the series with knee problems.

“Blake played his heart out with basically one leg,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey, whose voice was hoarse at his postgame news conference. “He fought through a lot of pain, swelling.”

Griffin was on the bench for much of Milwaukee’s crucial run. He sat for the final 4:35 of the third. Antetokounmpo scored 16 points in that quarter, half of which came on free throws.

Detroit led 20-8 early on after a dunk by Griffin. The Pistons were up 62-56 at halftime but still couldn’t prevent a fourth straight blowout at the hands of the team that had the NBA’s best regular-season record. Milwaukee won the four games by a total of 95 points, and no game was closer than 16.

Milwaukee went 31 of 41 on free throws, while Detroit was only 9 of 12. Casey was called for a technical foul in the third, and the fans weren’t at all pleased with the officiating.

Jazz 107, Rockets 91

In Salt Lake City, Donovan Mitchell scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter to rally Utah past Houston in Game 4 of their Western Conference series.

Jae Crowder added 23 points. Ricky Rubio chipped in 18 points and 11 assists and Derrick Favors finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. The Jazz staved off elimination to force Game 5 on Wednesday.

James Harden scored 30 points to lead Houston. Chris Paul added 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Eric Gordon chipped in 16 points.

Utah’s offense got a major boost from Crowder and Rubio in the first quarter. The duo combined for 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting in the quarter to help the Jazz carve out a double digit lead.

Utah opened the fourth quarter with a 15-1 and outscored the Rockets 31-12 in the period. Mitchell scored 13 points in three minutes to fuel the run after totaling just 12 points in the first three quarters. He capped off the surge with back-to-back 3-pointers, giving the Jazz a 91-80 lead with 9:02 remaining.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5