DETROIT — Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 20 of his 29 points in the first quarter and returned to the lineup after five games to lead the Milwaukee Bucks in a 150-130 win over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
The two-time MVP was out with a sore left knee and was joined by three-time All-Star Khris Middleton, putting the Bucks’ prolific duo back in the same lineup for the first time in more than a month.
“The band is back together,” said Antetokounmpo.
Middleton, who hadn’t played since Dec. 15 because of a sore right knee, had eight points and four assists as a stable presence for the Central Division-leading Bucks.
“It was great to see everyone play together with no real chemistry issues,” said Bucks center Brook Lopez, who scored 21 points.
Milwaukee scored 49 points in the first quarter, two shy of the NBA record, and led Detroit with 25 points after Antetokounmpo made all six of his shots in more than eight minutes.
“I tried to be aggressive and there were a few shots,” he said.
After pulling defenders, Antetokounmpo also had two assists and two rebounds in the first quarter.
“It was impressive to come out and play like he did,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. “He did a little bit of everything, just like the whole group in this neighborhood.”
Antetokounmpo couldn’t keep up his scoring pace for the rest of the game, but he didn’t have to as he was supported by teammates including substitute Bobby Portis, who scored 12 of his 18 points in the second quarter. However, Portis left the court early in the fourth quarter with a sore right knee after hitting a 10th rebound for his 29th double-double this season.
“We hope it’s nothing serious,” said Budenholzer.
Milwaukee led 83-55 at halftime, had 115 after three quarters, and finished the season on a points-high in a game that was uncompetitive beyond the opening minutes.
“The first quarter is what I feared,” said Detroit coach Dwane Casey. “A championship-caliber team came in and put their stamp on the game early on. We didn’t react and that’s how you give up a 49-point first quarter. I liked our fight after that, but it’s a 48-minute game .”
Thankfully, the Bucks held the ball and were called out for a shot clock violation in the final seconds while they were three points away from an NBA team this season.
“I’m sure the basket looked big to them,” said Budenholzer.
Bojan Bogdanovic had 33 points and rookie Jalen Duren had a season-high 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons, who have won a low 12 games in the Eastern Conference and are ahead only of the Houston Rockets leaguewide.
Detroit rookie Jaden Ivey had 12 points and 11 assists, and Hamidou Diallo added 11 points from the bench.
“The challenge at this point is to look at the scoreboard and tell yourself there’s no such thing as a 31-point shot,” said Saddiq Bey of Detroit, who scored 21 points.