Bucks vs. Pistons: Predictions, picks for 2019 NBA playoffs first-round series

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The Bucks enter the playoffs as the only 60-win team in the NBA, a mark they hit for the first time since 1

981. They started the year 7-0 and finished with the highest-rated defense in the league (104.9) and the third-rated offense (113.5), for a league-best net rating of 8.6.

Of the Bucks’ starters, only Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell have every been out of the postseason’s first round (each made one appearance in a conference semifinal), and on the bench, George Hill is the only player with extensive playoff experience, at least until Pau Gasol gets healthy. As a franchise, the Bucks have not won a series since 2001, so there’s some pressure on this bunch to back up what they did in the regular season.

On the sidelines, this matchup features last year’s Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, against this year’s likely recipient of the award, Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer. Safe bet that Budenholzer will enjoy a better fate than Casey, who was fired after last season despite his award-winning performance in Toronto. This year, he did an admirable job leading a team that had been 17-23 to a .500 record and a playoff spot.

NBA PLAYOFFS 2019: Full schedule | East predictions

Bucks vs. Pistons: Schedule, breakdown, predictionDateMatchupTime (TV channel)April 14Game 1 at Milwaukee7 p.m. ET (TNT/fuboTV)April 17Game 2 at Milwaukee8 p.m. ET (NBA TV)April 20Game 3 at Detroit8 p.m. ET (ESPN)April 22Game 4 at Detroit8 p.m. ET (TNT/fuboTV)*April 24Game 5 at MilwaukeeTBD*April 26Game 6 at DetroitTBD*April 28Game 7 at MilwaukeeTBD

(*if necessary)

The key player

Milwaukee swept four games from Detroit in the regular season, and while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are the All-Stars for the Bucks, point guard Eric Beldsoe led the charge against Detroit, averaging 20.5 points and 6.5 assists while shooting 51.6 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from the 3-point line in the four games.

Bledose will also be the primary defender against Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson, who improved as the season went on and was a big part of Detroit’s second-half turnaround.  

The big number

42.2. No team was stingier when it came to yielding points in the paint this season then the Bucks, who thrived by sticking center Brook Lopez near the rim and allowing his presence to deter drives.

Milwaukee will allow opponents to shoot 3s — it led the league with 36.3 attempts against per game — and teams shoot 36.1 percent against the Bucks. But they’re not going to allow you to get to the rim on them. The Bucks allowed only 23.9 percent of opponents’ shots to be at the rim, lowest in the NBA.

Bucks vs. Pistons prediction

The Pistons rallied nicely late in the year, but the Bucks are a terrible matchup for them. They could make a series of it if they’re hot from the 3-point line, but they can’t win four out of seven.

Bucks over Pistons, 4-1