Bucks sweep Pistons to advance, Jazz stave off elimination
By Agence France-Presse
The Milwaukee Bucks wiped away 18 years of frustration on Monday by beating the Detroit Pistons 127-104 to complete a four-game sweep of their first round Eastern Conference playoff series.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 41 points as the Bucks reached the second round of the postseason for the first time since the 2000-01 season when they made it all the way to the NBA semi-finals.
Top-seeded Milwaukee cruised through the first three games and after a slow start in game four, they took control late and won by a comfortable 23 points.
“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.”
Breaking their streak of eight straight playoff exits so quickly means Milwaukee has more time to prepare for their next opponent — the Boston Celtics, who are coming off a sweep of Indiana.
The Bucks matched their regular season dominance over the Pistons, winning all four games. They had met in the postseason four times with the Pistons winning them all.
Antetokounmpo had a quiet night in game three with just 14 points but he had all his weapons at his disposal in the close-out game.
“I remember our first playoff series (in 2015),” Antetokounmpo said. “Chicago, the last game, game six, 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 finished 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.
The Blake Griffin-led Pistons set an NBA record with their 14th consecutive playoff loss, a losing skid that began in 2008.
Milwaukee was also the second team in playoff history to sweep their first round series by at least 15 points in each game, joining the 1980 Celtics.
Last year, the Bucks lost to the Celtics in a seven-game series. This year’s second round series will have some new faces.
Milwaukee has Brook Lopez as a starter and added veterans George Hill and Nikola Mirotic.
Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving were out with injuries for the Celtics last year.
Elsewhere, Donovan Mitchell scored 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter as the Utah Jazz staved off elimination in game four with a 107-91 victory over the Houston Rockets.
“It’s not over,” Mitchell said. “We have another one, and another one, and another one.”
Jae Crowder added 23 points, Ricky Rubio tallied 18 points and 11 assists and Derrick Favors finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds for Utah, who trail three games to one.
Utah outscored Houston 31-12 in the fourth quarter to set up game five on Wednesday.
Mitchell said they now realize what they have been doing wrong and what it is going to take to win the series.
“We all been struggling with our shots all series,” said Mitchell. “We didn’t play hard at the beginning. The last two games we played harder.
“There is no way we were going to go out like that. We figured out what we have to do. The best thing for us is to continue to play team basketball.”
James Harden scored 30 points to lead Houston. Chris Paul added 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Eric Gordon tallied 16 points.
The Rockets shot a dismal 17 of 46 from three-point range.