Griffin (knee) starts, but Pistons now in 0-3 hole

DETROIT -- Detroit Pistons star Blake Griffin started Saturday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, marking the first time in the 2019 postseason he had been available to play.

Griffin had 27 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists Saturday night, but it wasn't quite enough. The Pistons fell to the Bucks 119-103 and dropped to 0-3 in the best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

"We had a couple mistakes early on," Griffin said after the game. "A couple breakdowns defensively against a team like that and a six-point lead can stretch to 12 pretty quickly."

While Griffin led the Pistons in scoring, he was perhaps more valuable on the defensive end. Griffin was assigned to guarding Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo finished with just 14 points -- his lowest total since January.

Griffin missed the first two games of the series with knee soreness. He also sat out the final game of Detroit's regular season. Thon Maker had been starting in Griffin's place.

Before Saturday's game, Pistons coach Dwane Casey said that whether or not Griffin played would be determined by his warm-up. He warmed up before Game 2 in Milwaukee on Wednesday before electing not to play.

"It's one of those things that is tenuous," Casey said before the game. "He is feeling much, much better, so we will go from there."

Casey had said throughout the series that he was hopeful Griffin would feel well enough to return. Before Game 2, Casey said that some days the 30-year-old Griffin feels no pain, whereas he has felt uncomfortable other days. His status had been listed as day-to-day since the series began last week.

"To have him back was really good for us," Pistons center Andre Drummond said. "We played the way we were supposed to."

Midway through Saturday's fourth quarter, Griffin went up for a rebound and landed awkwardly. He limped away from the play and hobbled over to the scorer's table. He returned to the game after that, but only briefly. He checked out for the final time with about 6 minutes left in the game.

When asked to quantify his health after the game, Griffin declined to elaborate and said he was healthy enough to play.

"With the injury, he gave us all he could," Drummond said. "He was definitely missed, and it was good to have him back."

Without Griffin, the Pistons had found themselves in an 0-2 hole, losing 121-86 in Game 1 and 120-99 in Game 2. But even with Griffin, the Pistons struggled against Milwaukee in the regular season. Griffin played in all four regular-season meetings between the two teams. Despite Griffin averaging 24.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists in those matchups, the Bucks won those four games by an average of 15 points.

Even though he was wearing street clothes, Griffin was issued a technical foul in each of the games in Milwaukee. He declined to address the fouls with reporters after the games.

Griffin averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists during the regular season.