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Big second half gives Bucks 2-0 series lead over Pistons

For 24 minutes Wednesday night, the Detroit Pistons made the Milwaukee Bucks sweat.

In the end, though, the Bucks turned a scare into another comfortable margin.

Eric Bledsoe scored 27 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Khris Middleton scored 24 as the Bucks scored a 120-99 victory at Fiserv Forum.

The Bucks hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round playoff series. Game 3 is Saturday night in Detroit.

After Sunday’s 35-point victory in which the Bucks led comfortably throughout, Milwaukee actually trailed by a point at the half.

Antetokounmpo figured that was enough, and he came out with a vengeance in the third quarter.

The Greek star, a leading candidate for MVP, scored 13 points in the opening eight minutes of the third quarter, leading an 18-6 run. A 10-0 run later in the period gave the Bucks a 93-74 lead, and they took a 93-76 lead into the fourth.

The Pistons had one last gasp in them, cutting the deficit to nine (although it briefly appeared to be seven before a replay review took away a Detroit basket becaue of a shot-clock violation). Bledsoe’s flying tip-in with 7:47 left ignited an 11-1 run, and the Bucks restored order from there.

Pat Connaughton contributed big off the bench, adding 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots, and Ersan Ilyasova posted a 10-rebound night as the Bucks met all of Detroit’s challenges.

Luke Kennard moved into Detroit’s starting lineup after scoring 21 points in Sunday’s loss. Kennard and Reggie Jackson led a small-lineup surge in the second quarter, and the Pistons actually took a 59-58 lead into the half.

Antetokounmpo took care of that in the opening minutes of the third quarter, but even with the 21-point final margin the Pistons seemed to find something to work with.

Detroit again played without star forward Blake Griffin because of a bad knee. But Kennard scored 19 points, and Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond added 18 each in a game where the Bucks clearly were uncomfortable in the first half.

Drummond also grabbed 16 rebounds.

Antetokounmpo struggled in the first half, picking up his third foul with 8:42 in the second period. He finished the half with just 10 points in 14 minutes. The Bucks had eight turnovers in the first half to just two for Detroit, and the Pistons led mostly because they got 13 more field goal attempts.

The Bucks did not commit a turnover in the turn-around third quarter.

Nikola Mirotic recorded another 12 minutes coming back from a fractured left thumb. He made just 1 of 5 shots, but the Bucks hope he can . become more of a factor deeper into the playoffs. The Bucks also hope to have guard Malcolm Brogdon back, possibly as early as the second round should they manage to close out the Pistons.

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