Bledsoe sparks Bucks to victory over Pistons
MILWAUKEE — Eric Bledsoe hasn’t even gone through a full practice yet, but he’s proving to be a perfect fit with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Playing his fourth game for Milwaukee, which acquired him from Phoenix last week, Bledsoe came up big down the stretch, scoring seven of his 14 points in the final three minutes as the Bucks held off a furious comeback attempt for a 99-95 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
“He’s a true pro,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “To have a short time of practice with those guys, it just shows his basketball IQ. He knows how to play.”
Bledsoe grabbed six rebounds, had eight assists and blocked two shots in 30 minutes but had struggled with his shot for much of the game, going 2 of 10, including three misses from beyond the arc.
But he took a feed from Khris Middleton and sank a 3 with 2:44 left to snap that drought, putting the Bucks up six, and after the Pistons tied the score at 93 with under a minute remaining, he hit a 15-foot pull-up jumper, then sank two free throws to give the Bucks some breathing room.
“That’s why we want him here, we know he’s a big-time player,” said Middleton, who led the Bucks with 27 points.
“He finds guys, he plays aggressively, he’s a smart basketball player. He had one late turnover but still had the confidence to knock down the big shot and two free throws that pretty much took over the game for us.”
Milwaukee’s defense made things miserable for the Pistons, who hit 15 of 37 3-pointers but shot a season-low 35.3 percent, gave up 17 points on 18 turnovers and had 16 attempts blocked.
“That’s the game right there, absolutely,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said.
“That’s 16 opportunities you don’t even get the ball up on the rim. When you look at the stat sheet, it’s really hard to figure out how the game was close. ... It was a frustrating night, we really didn’t do anything well, I couldn’t find any offense to run to help us. But they hung in there.”
Avery Bradley hit six 3-pointers and led the Pistons with 28 points. Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond added 13 apiece.
“They had a lot of pressure,” Harris said. “Still, there were spurts where we did get the ball from side to side and got open looks, but it wasn’t consistent. That was our downfall tonight.”
After a 41-41 halftime tie, Milwaukee broke things open in the second half with a 24-9 run and took a 65-50 lead on Malcolm Brodgon’s 3-pointer with 5:22 left in the third quarter.
Langson Galloway almost single-handedly made it a game in the fourth quarter, hitting two 3-pointers and three free throws in the first two minutes of the period to turn an 11-point hole into a two-possession game with 10 minutes remaining.
Middleton scored on back-to-back possessions to give the Bucks a seven-point lead, but the Pistons rallied once more and got within one on Tolliver’s 3-pointer with 5:51 to play. Luke Kennard tied it up at 84 on a 3-pointer with 4:36 left. Bledsoe gave Milwaukee some breathing room, hitting his first 3 of the night with 2:44 left.
Detroit answered again, getting to 93-92 on Bradley’s 3-pointer and after a Giannis Antetokounmpo miss, Drummond split two free throws to tie it up before Bledsoe’s short jumper put the Bucks in front 95-92 with 42 seconds left.
“It’s a bonus having a guy like Eric who you know is going to make the right plays,” said Antetokounmpo, who scored 21 points and added six rebounds and four blocks. “He’s doing a great job making the right play down the stretch and tonight he gave us the win hitting the big shot.
“We’re going to keep trusting him because he’s really good at it.”
NOTES: Mirza Teletovic (left knee soreness) and Matthew Dellavedova (knee tendinitis) were out for the Bucks, who activated both their two-way players — Gary Payton II and Joel Bolomboy — against the Pistons. ... Stanley Johnson returned to the Pistons’ starting lineup after missing the last three games with a sore back. Detroit also had Jon Leuer (sprained left ankle) available, though he did not see action against the Bucks. ... At 10-3 to start the day, Detroit was off to its best start since opening the 2005-06 campaign 11-2. ... The Bucks’ 16 blocked shots were two short of the franchise record of 18, set against the Pistons on Nov. 12, 1980.