Before Giannis Antetokounmpo could blow out the candles in celebration of his 23rd birthday, the Milwaukee Bucks needed to turn out the lights on the Detroit Pistons.
Despite leading by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter thanks to a 14-1 period-opening run, it took some clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch for the Bucks to hold on. Khris Middleton knocked down four straight free throws and Eric Bledsoe made one to give Milwaukee a four-point lead with 8 seconds left as the Bucks earned a 104-100 victory in front of 15,841 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Wednesday night.
Antetokounmpo contributed a team-high 25 points, scoring eight in the fourth quarter after a scoreless third. Bledsoe added 22 and Middleton chipped in 21 on 7 of 10 shooting in the win.
The Pistons rode Andre Drummond's 27 points and 20 rebounds for most of the night, weathering numerous Bucks runs to keep the game close. With Detroit down eight and under two minutes left, Drummond deposited a layup and kicked a pass out to Tobias Harris for a triple to get the Pistons back within a basket.
Never miss a local story.
Bledsoe came up huge after that, making an 18-footer then, after a jumper by Pistons guard Reggie Jackson, driving straight at Drummond off a pick-and-roll with Antetokounmpo. Bledsoe didn't make the layup or get the foul call, but he tapped in his miss to give the Bucks a five-point cushion with 32 seconds remaining.
From there, Milwaukee took care of business at the free-throw line to earn the win and send the Pistons to their fourth loss in a row.
Outside of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Bledsoe, the Bucks got numerous key contributions off the bench, including 11 points from Rashad Vaughn in 17 minutes in place of Jason Terry, who is out with a left calf strain.