Milwaukee — Giannis Antetokounmpo caught the ball in the post and spun away from Hamidou Diallo to rise over Nerlens Noel for a posterizing dunk, punctuating a dominant first quarter against the Pistons.
The former MVP had a similar moment towards the end of the third quarter when he drove into the lane and threw down a one-handed slam over a crowd of defenders.
Both plays were examples of Antetokoumpo’s interior dominance on Wednesday as he led the Milwaukee Bucks to their second win over the Pistons this week, 116-91.
Antetokounmpo had a slow start in Monday’s win over the Pistons, however, that was not the case in the rematch. The league’s second-leading scorer imposed his will inside the paint from the opening tip.
He scored nine points and grabbed four rebounds within the first four minutes of the game and ended the first quarter with 15 points and seven rebounds. When Detroit tried to adjust to Antetokounmpo’s aggressiveness, closing in on him to take away driving lanes, Antetokounmpo found his teammates for wide open dunks. He finished with a game-high 32 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
“From when he first started until now, it’s like day and night,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey. “He sees things now that he did not see in Year 2 or Year 3. I can’t give him enough superlatives as far as his all around game: playmaking, rebounding, attacking the rim, defense. He has the whole package.”
The Pistons remained competitive throughout the first half thanks to Bojan Bogdanovic, who finished with 14 points, three rebounds and three assists. Since the regular season started, Bogdanovic has shown an ability to score in bunches and that’s what he did early on. He connected on three of his first four shots, two of which were from beyond the 3-point arc. When he was doubled as he drove to the paint, he lobbed the ball up to Nerlens Noel for an easy layup.
BOX SCORE: Bucks 116, Pistons 91
Pistons forward Saddiq Bey, who led the team with 22 points and three rebounds, made his imprint on the game by driving to the lane and getting to the free-throw line. He connected on 9-of-10 from the stripe. Isaiah Stewart produced a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bucks (7-0) didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line (10-of-38), but it wasn’t much of a factor because they took advantage of their size matchup against the Pistons, who were outrebounded 52-35. Milwaukee’s defense was apparent with 17 steals.
“It hurts a lot,” Stewart said. “You can’t afford to turn the ball over that much against a championship team. We shot ourselves in the foot with that.”
Cade Cunningham entered the game on an extremely efficient scoring run, but he struggled throughout the first half. He’s been automatic with his midrange shot in the pick-and-roll, but he failed to connect on his first five shots of the game as he shot 1-of-8 in the first half. He also picked up three fouls in that span.
After the halftime break, Cunningham found his range and made four of his first five shots in the second half. However, it was too little, too late as the Pistons fell into a 16-point hole early in the third quarter. Cunningham totaled 10 points, six rebounds and four assists to snap his four-game streak of at least 23 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Cunningham had his opportunities, but the Bucks also made adjustments from the first game and doubled the second-year guard once he made his way inside the paint. After the game, Cunningham said he expected the Bucks to blitz him because it was similar to how they defended him during his rookie season.
“I was expecting them to come after me a little bit,” Cunningham said. “I kind of figured they were going to show me a different look. I got some good looks early on, just didn’t knock them down. Live and learn.”
Jaden Ivey also had difficulties scoring against the Bucks’ length as he totaled seven points and two rebounds on 3-of-11 from the field.
If the first installment of the Pistons’ four-game season series against the Bucks showed anything, it’s that Detroit’s young roster is learning how to compete in real-time against the most elite teams in the NBA.
But in order to continue to do that, they’ll need more production from their star players.
Detroit will return home for a two-game homestand, which begins when the Cleveland Cavaliers visit Little Caesars Arena on Friday.email@example.com