LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Milwaukee showed why they are the Eastern Conference kingpins and Giannis Antetokounmpo proved he is worthy of a league MVP as the Bucks trampled all over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday.
Antetokounmpo had 24 points and 17 rebounds in just 24 minutes, as the Milwaukee began their hunt for a playoff championship ring with a 121-86 blowout of the Pistons in game one.
“It was fun,” said Greece’s Antetokounmpo. “We did a good job of playing hard and playing together.”
“The coach told us at halftime to stay together, keep rebounding the ball and run it down. I am just glad we got a win.”
Antetokounmpo and the Bucks ran roughshod over the hapless Pistons all game and the 35-point deficit was flattering to the visitors.
Detroit tried everything to stop the ‘Greek Freak’ and the only time they did was when centre Andre Drummond shoved him to the floor with both hands which got Drummond thrown out of the game by the referees.
Antetokounmpo was nine for 17 from the field and one of five from three-point range.
Drummond threw a kiss to the Fiserv Forum crowd as he headed to the showers but it might as well be the kiss of death for the Pistons against the NBA’s top team (60 wins) in the regular season.
Seven Bucks scored in double figures. Eric Bledsoe had 15 points, and Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton each added 14. George Hill came off the bench to score 16 points.
Detroit played without forward Blake Griffin, who has missed five of the last eight games with a sore knee.
Elsewhere, the Portland Trail Blazers snapped their 10-game postseason losing streak, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 104-99, to claim their first playoff win in three years.
The Blazers have endured a miserable record in the playoffs in recent years, suffering back-to-back first round sweeps in 2017 and 2018 against Golden State and New Orleans.
On Sunday however Portland’s three-year wait for a postseason win came to an end, as Damian Lillard inspired a battling victory over the sixth-seeded Thunder.
Lillard went nine-of-21 from the field on his way to 30 points in 38 minutes, adding four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
He was backed by C.J. McCollum, who added 24 points from nine-of-24 shooting with six rebounds and three assists.
Turkish international Enes Kanter meanwhile reminded his former Thunder team-mates of his talent, posting a double-double of 20 points and 18 rebounds.
Lillard said Kanter’s fired-up contribution had tipped the balance for the Blazers.
”Any time you’re going up against a team you played for, in the most important series of the year, you’re going to want to play well,” Lillard said. ”And you’re going to want to come out on the winning side.
”We understood that he was going to come out ready to play. And he was the MVP of the game, especially down the stretch.
”He had a huge presence and played a big part in us winning this game.”