DETROIT – Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 29 points in the first quarter, returning to the squad after a five-match absence to lead Milwaukee Bucks in a 150-130 victory over Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
The two-time MVP dropped out with a sore left knee and was joined by three-time All-Star Chris Middleton, putting the prolific Bucks duo on the same roster for the first time in over a month.
“The band is back together,” Antetokounmpo said.
Middleton, who hasn’t played since Dec. 15 with right knee pain, has eight points and four assists as a consistent presence for the Central Division-leading Bucks.
“It was great to see everyone playing together without major chemistry issues,” said Bucks center Brook Lopez, who scored 21 points.
Milwaukee scored 49 points in the first quarter, two short of an NBA record, and led Detroit with 25 after Antetokounmpo made all six shots in eight-plus minutes.
“I was trying to be aggressive and a few hits landed,” he said.
After the defenders drew, Antetokounmpo also had two assists and two rebounds in the first quarter.
“It was impressive to come out and play like him,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He did a little bit of everything, as did the whole band on that block.”
Antetokounmpo didn’t manage to score that many points for the remainder of the game, but he didn’t have to do so with teammates like reserve Bobby Portis, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the second quarter.
Milwaukee led 83–55 at halftime, scored 115 after three quarters, and finished the season with a season-high scoring in a game that was not competitive past the opening minutes.
“I was afraid that the first quarter would happen,” Detroit coach Duane Casey said. “A championship-level team came in and put their stamp on the game from the very beginning. 49 points in the first quarter. I liked our fight after that, but it’s a 48-minute game.”
Luckily, the Bucks had possession and were called out in the closing seconds for a shot clock violation when they were three points away from the most by any NBA team this season.
“I’m sure the basket seemed big to them,” Budenholzer said.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 33 points and rookie Jalen Düren scored a career-high 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons, who have won 12 weak Eastern Conference games and are only ahead of Houston in the league standings.
Detroit Rookie Jayden Ivey had 12 points and 11 assists, while Hamidou Diallo added 11 points off the bench.
“The hard part at that moment is looking at the scoreboard and telling yourself that a 31-point shot is impossible,” said Detroit’s Saddiq Bey, who scored 21 points.
IN MEMORY OF
The Pistons pay tribute to the deceased Bob Lanier throughout the game. The Hall of Famer, who played his 14-season career in Detroit and Milwaukee, died in May at the age of 73.
There was also a moment of silence for Chris Ford, who started his career in Detroit before winning three NBA titles in Boston as a player and assistant coach. Ford, who scored the first 3-pointer in league history, passed away last week at the age of 74.
Bucks: Portis left the floor with a sore right knee early in the fourth quarter after hitting his 10th rebound and 29th double-double this season. “We hope it’s not something serious,” Budenholzer said. … Reserve player Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Jrue Holiday added 16 points and seven assists.
Pistons: Killian Hayes (shoulder) eliminated along with Marvin Bagley (broken arm) and Cade Cunningham (shin surgery). … The short team lost four in a row and eight out of 10 games in 2023.
Bucks: Host Denver Wednesday night.
Pistons: In Brooklyn Thursday night.
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