Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 26 points and 12 rebounds and Eric Bledsoe led all scorers with 27 points as the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks beat the No. 8 seed Detroit Pistons 120-99 in Game 2 of their NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Wednesday.
Bucks wing Khris Middleton added 24 points and eight assists, and guard Pat Connaughton added 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting to go along with nine rebounds.
Andre Drummond posted an 18-point, 16-rebound double-double for the Pistons, who were without leading scorer Blake Griffin because of left knee soreness. Luke Kennard led Detroit with 19 points, and Reggie Jackson added 18 points and eight assists.
Milwaukee trailed 59-58 at halftime after the Pistons exploded for 16 points in the final 4:25 of the second quarter. Antetokounmpo sat the final 6:37 of the frame after picking up his third foul.
However, the Bucks outscored the Pistons 35-17 in the third thanks in part to 13 Antetokounmpo points.
The Bucks now have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Bucks Can't Get Away with Brogdon's Absence vs. East's Best
The Bucks look like they're going to roll over the Pistons in four or five games sans Malcolm Brogdon, who suffered a plantar fasciitis tear in his right foot and has been out since March 15.
The team had a slight scare in an ugly defensive second quarter with Antetokounmpo on the bench in Game 2, but the third quarter erased any doubt regarding a Bucks win.
Detroit is a .500 team playing without its lone All-Star, however. The Bucks can get away with some Giannis foul trouble and Brogdon sitting out against the Pistons, but playing without the guard will be much more difficult against better competition like the 59-23 Toronto Raptors, 52-30 Philadelphia 76ers and 49-33 Boston Celtics.
Granted, the Bucks went a combined 7-3 against those teams, but Brogdon's value versus the No. 4 seed Boston Celtics and No. 2 seed Toronto Raptors can't be understated.
He went a combined plus-16 versus Boston in three games and plus-64 versus Toronto in four games. Brogdon played the No. 3 seed Philadelphia 76ers once and posted a minus-six, albeit in a 15-point win.
Overall, only a few numbers are needed to summarize Brogdon's value to his team.
First, he achieved something this season that has only happened seven times before in NBA history.
Per Justin Kubatko of StatMuse, the ex-Virginia guard made 50 percent of his field goals, 40 percent of his three-pointers and 90 percent of his free throws while also making enough attempts in each category to qualify on the NBA's official stat ledger.
Brogdon is also a force on the defensive end: Per NBA.com, the 26-year-old is No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rating among guards who have started at least 13 of their games this season.
According to Basketball Reference, Brogdon also finished third on the team in player efficiency rating and win shares per 48 minutes.
As far as how the Bucks have done with Brogdon off the court, the team went 8-4 in his absence post-injury during the regular season, not counting a season finale where multiple players rested.
That's a respectable win-loss mark, but the defense took a hit.
Before the All-Star break, the Bucks were first in defensive rating, per NBA.com. That number fell to ninth after the All-Star game: Brogdon played just nine games of 20 minutes or more during that stretch.
The Bucks notably allowed 113.4 points per game from March 17 to April 7, a number four full points off their season average of 109.3 points per game allowed.
Thankfully, Brogdon seems to be on the right track, as head coach Mike Budenholzer noted on April 10:
Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel showcased Brogdon getting some work in as well on April 12:
Malika Andrews of ESPN reported a timetable from Budenholzer on April 12:
But the question is when Brogdon can return and how many minutes he can provide. It's hard seeing him returning full bore after sitting out with a foot injury for over a month.
And that could be a problem against the East's best.
Ultimately, the Bucks need Brogdon back as soon as possible given his remarkable season. With him on the court, Milwaukee undoubtedly has a championship-winning ceiling. Without him, a second-round exit could loom.
Detroit will host Milwaukee for Game 3 on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.