The Detroit Pistons had to fight until the final day of the regular season to make the postseason, only to earn themselves a trip to face the NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks. The Pistons, who won their final two games to reach .500 and earn the No. 8 spot, head to Milwaukee on Sunday for Game 1 of the first round of Eastern Conference playoffs with some uncertainty surrounding the availability of their best player.
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Detroit All-Star forward Blake Griffin sat out four of the final seven games of the regular season, including Wednesday's finale, with a left knee injury and is considered questionable for Sunday. "Hopefully, he's all good," Pistons guard Luke Kennard told reporters of Griffin. "Get some rest the next couple of days, but whoever is with us we're going to go out and compete. We have a good team. I really believe that. Hopefully, we can put together some really good basketball in the next week or so." The Bucks are aware of the expectations that come with being the No. 1 seed and are prepared to be at their best from the start. "The playoffs bring pressure," Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters. "Now is the time when you've got to execute defensively and offensively. There's no 'two weeks from now we need to get better' or 'a month from now.' Every team feels that pressure, the sense of the playoffs. I think our guys are excited about that and the coaching staff the same."
TV: 7 p.m. ET, TNT, FS Detroit, FS Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
Detroit is a heavy underdog in the series but can claim an advantage up front with a healthy Griffin alongside center Andre Drummond. "We have to go and play hard, play loose," Pistons coach Dwane Casey told reporters. "Nobody on this planet that's an NBA fan is going to expect us to win. That's great. I think a lot of our guys have been underdogs all their lives. I've been an underdog all my life. Our owner has been an underdog and look what he's done for himself. That's the approach we're taking - that nobody expects us to be here anyway. Play basketball." Drummond led the NBA in rebounding (15.6) and double-doubles (69) while averaging 17.3 points on 53.3 percent shooting.
Milwaukee lost in the first round in each of the franchise's last eight trips to the playoffs and is trying not to look any further ahead than Game 1. "As a team we know what our goal is," Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. "We haven't recently been out of the first round. We have to take it step by step. Got to win the first game on Sunday, then we can move on." Antetokounmpo battled ankle and calf injuries down the stretch but is expected to be on the court Sunday and should be close to the player that averaged 27.7 points on 57.8 percent shooting, 12.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in the regular season.
1. Bucks PF Nikola Mirotic (fractured thumb) is practicing with the team and could play Sunday.
2. Pistons SG Wayne Ellington is averaging 12 points and shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range in 28 games since joining the team.
3. Milwaukee took each of the four regular-season meetings by an average of 14.8 points.
PREDICTION: Bucks 125, Pistons 108
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