(1) MILWAUKEE BUCKS V. (8) DETROIT PISTONS: SERIES PREVIEW
Game 1: 4 PM CST, ESPN
Game 1 Spread: MIL -13
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Detroit Pistons may have snuck into the NBA’s postseason, but expecting its run to last past this opening round probably is unwise. Blake Griffin is hobbled, the Milwaukee Bucks are the East’s best team, and it is hard to imagine this series ends with the Pistons even managing to win a game. The Bucks are heavy 13-point favorites in Game 1, which will be played in Milwaukee where the Bucks were extremely dominant. Milwaukee won an East-best 33-games at home while going 40-12 against fellow Eastern Conference teams. The Pistons finished .500 and were seven games under .500 on the road. This series is as close to chalk as any in the first round, yet will we will attempt to see if Detroit could have any hidden advantages in a rather clear-cut first-round matchup.
The Bucks just completed a 60-win season and possess the league’s likely 2018-19 MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo. His ascent to greatness has been captivating, and while his detractors berate his inability to dial up the triple, Giannis ended the season with a stretch shooting a very respectable 33 percent. And it is hardly as if that is a stunting aspect for a player whose stats resemble video game numbers: 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, six assists, nearly three blocks/steals and a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 30.95—nearly double the league average for his position. There is simply no denying that Giannis is not simply one of the league’s best players, but one of the all-time talents. There is nothing impeding his rise to true greatness.
And Giannis is hardly alone in Milwaukee: The Bucks have a rock-solid starting five that features as many underrated threats as it does stars. Khris Middleton is a borderline All-Star who never gets enough credit. Eric Bledsoe, while not the athlete he was pre-injuries, is a great 2-guard who has settled into a strong three-gaurs rotation that also features former ROY Malcolm Brogdon and an underrated Pat Connaughton.
Cotton-soft center Brook Lopez has shifted to becoming a true stretch-5, and with his nonexistent rebounding issue, Milwaukee still manages to more than hold its own on the glass. There really are few flaws in this Bucks team, and it easily could hang with or upset any of the top teams in the much tougher Western Conference. After all, Milwaukee even posted a 20-10 record in its 30 games against Western Conference opponents. There is no fool’s gold here.
Detroit has to consider itself fortunate just not to be in the lottery. The Pistons did close the season with two wins, but it lost four prior to that and really did not look as though it would advance to the No. 8 seed and this matchup. Griffin had a sensational season, but he is questionable for Game 1 with the knee soreness that puts a massive dark cloud over Detroit in this series. Without Griffin, the Pistons do not have its best scorer, its primary playmaker, and its only transcendental talent.
Andre Drummond instead (if he is unable to go) will be asked to carry a massive load that Brook Lopez probably cannot stop him from carrying. But Drummond is hardly enough to swing this series, and it will also require Reggie Jackson going atomic against a Bucks backcourt that typically does not even permit that. The Pistons are a mediocre team against the best Milwaukee team since its formidable 1980s teams, and the time to “Fear the Deer” is now.
Prediction: Bucks in 4