MILWAUKEE — Will Blake Griffin play Wednesday night?
That’s the big question for the Detroit Pistons as they prepare to face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at Fiserv Forum.
The All-Star power forward was in street clothes for Sunday night’s Game 1 because of a left knee injury. He watched from the sidelines as the Bucks dominated the visiting Pistons from the opening tip and cruised to a 121-86 victory.
Griffin did show up on the game’s stat sheet. He drew a technical foul for leaving the bench when teammate Andre Drummond was ejected after drawing a Flagrant-2 technical foul for shoving Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Griffin said Monday after working out that he would play Wednesday night if the decision was up to him. Detroit coach Dwyane Casey confirmed Griffin’s status is up to the team’s medical staff.
“The doctors are telling him what his body can do and not do and that’s who’s making the decisions,” Casey said. “We have an excellent medical staff. I’m not qualified to tell him when to play or not to play in these situations. We need all hands on deck. He wants to play. So when his body says he’s ready, whether it’s (Wednesday night) or Saturday (for Game 3), whenever it is, he’ll be available.”
Yahoo Sports reported Monday that Griffin is likely to miss the entire series. He didn’t play in four of the team’s final seven regular-season games.
If Griffin does return, he might be the Pistons’ best bet at slowing Antetokounmpo, who led the way in Game 1 with 24 points with 17 rebounds — one of seven Milwaukee players to score in double figures.
More important, though, is the fact Antetokounmpo only played 23 minutes in the opener while the rest of his fellow starters each played 25 minutes or less, leaving them well-rested for Game 2.
That left plenty of playing time for the Bucks’ bench. Pat Connaughton and George Hill carried the bulk of the load by playing 28 and 23 minutes, respectively. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer also was able to give meaningful, low-pressure playing time to Nikola Mirotic, who returned to the court for the first time since fracturing his left thumb March 19 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Acquired in a deadline deal with New Orleans, Mirotic, a sharp-shooting power forward, averaged 11.6 points on 41.5-percent shooting — including a 35.6 clip from distance in 14 games for the Bucks. The injury kept him out of Milwaukee’s last 11 regular-season games, but Mirotic played 16 minutes in Game 1.
“I think the biggest thing was he got 15 minutes,” Budenholzer said afterward. “Obviously, probably didn’t have it mapped out for him to get quite that many.
“He’s going to be a big part of what we do going forward.”
Mirotic’s rust showed. He came up empty on five attempts from beyond the arc and shot 2-for-8 overall to finish with four points. But just having him on the floor was a benefit for the Bucks.
“He stretches the floor even more,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “You have to respect him wherever he is on the court, regardless. He just brings another dimension to our team.”
After sweeping the season series from the Pistons 4-0 and cruising to an easy victory in Game 1, it would be easy for the Bucks to get wide-eyed and leave themselves vulnerable to an upset. But they insist their concentration, as it was during the regular season when they finished with the NBA’s best record, is directed only on the next game.
“(We’re not) worried about anybody else,” point guard Eric Bledsoe said. “That’s what I think was so great about this team this year; we didn’t focus on the standings. We played our game and took care of who we had to. We’re focused on us.”