Nikola Mirotic will return from a left thumb fracture for the opening game of the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round playoff series against the Detroit Pistons.
Mirotic missed the last 11 games after suffering the sprained/fractured thumb on March 19 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
For the Pistons, forward Blake Griffin will not play because of a sore knee. Former Buck Thon Maker will start in his place.
The Bucks are looking to win their first playoff series since going to the Eastern Conference finals in 2001.
They finished with the NBA’s best record this season, giving them home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Last year they lost Game 7 in the first round at Boston. The year before that they lost Game 6 at home to the Toronto Raptors to bre eliminated. The last time they had home-court advantage for a playoff series was in the Eastern Conference semifinals against Charlotte back in 2001. Coincidentally, that’s the last time they won a playoff series, winning Game 7 at the Bradley Center.
They followed that with a seven-game loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in the conference finals.
Although they are a heavy favorite as the No. 1 seed against the No. 8 seed Pistons, the Bucks are 0-4 in playoff series against Detroit, losing series in 1976, ’89, 2004 and ‘o6. The Pistons went on to win titles in 1989 and 2004, along with 1988 when they did not meet th eBucks in the post-season.
The Bucks swept the Pistons, 4-0, in the season series this year, the first time they’ve swept Detroit in their 51 seasons.
Milwaukee is led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, the MVP candidate who was the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Antetokounmpo was drafted by general manager John Hammond, a former assistant GM for the Pistons.