Finally a playoff game at Pistons’ new arena

Detroit Pistons' Reggie Jackson (1) shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo during the first half of Game 2 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Sports Writer

Little Caesars Arena in Detroit will finally host its first playoff game — in what is probably the last chance the Pistons have to make their series against Milwaukee competitive.

“Let’s make it hard on them,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “Let’s make it a home atmosphere, because we need everything.”

The Milwaukee-Detroit matchup is one of two series shifting sites Saturday. Houston and Utah will also play Game 3 in Salt Lake City. There are a couple Game 4s on tap as well: Philadelphia at Brooklyn, and Denver at San Antonio.

The Pistons are in their second season at their new arena, but even after moving downtown, they’ve had their share of small, dreary crowds — similar to the atmosphere during their final years at The Palace of Auburn Hills. But there’s every reason to expect a more charged scene Saturday night. Little Caesars Arena has hosted the NCAA and Horizon League tournaments in basketball, but there have been no home playoff games yet for the Pistons — or for the Red Wings, who also play there.

“I hope we’re building trust with our fans by getting the first step of getting into the playoffs, because we have some great, knowledgeable basketball fans here in Detroit,” Casey said. “We’ve got to make sure we come out and represent them, but we need all them to come out the way they treated us in Milwaukee — like we stole something.”

The Pistons were drubbed in the series opener 121-86. They played better in Game 2, even leading at halftime, but they still lost 120-99 to the top-seeded Bucks.

Houston is also up 2-0 in its series against Utah. James Harden is coming off a triple-double of 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists Wednesday night. The Rockets won the first two games by a combined 52 points.

Philadelphia leads Brooklyn 2-1 after winning on the road Thursday night. The 76ers were held to 102 points in a Game 1 loss but have been impressive since, winning 145-123 in Game 2 and then 131-115 on Thursday.

San Antonio took a 2-1 lead over Denver with a 118-108 victory in Game 3. Derrick White scored a career-high 36 points.

A look at Saturday’s games:

76ERS AT NETS

76ers lead, 2-1. Game 4, 3 p.m. EDT, TNT.

NEED TO KNOW: Philadelphia coach Brett Brown isn’t sure if Joel Embiid will play, but the 76ers were just fine without their All-Star center in Game 3.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Brooklyn’s lineup combinations. D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert all had big games when the Nets won the opener, so coach Kenny Atkinson needs to figure out how much he can get his best ball handlers on the floor for more time, while still being able to rebound and defend against a much bigger lineup.

INJURY WATCH: Embiid worked out Friday at practice but Brown said he didn’t have a gut feeling either way whether Embiid’s left knee would feel well enough for him to play. The Sixers have depth behind him with Greg Monroe and Boban Marjanovic, who combined for 23 points and 21 rebounds in Game 3.

NUGGETS AT SPURS

Spurs lead, 2-1. Game 4, 5:30 p.m. EDT, TNT.

NEED TO KNOW: Denver has won only six of its last 37 road games in the playoffs, and three of those came during the 2008-09 season, when the Nuggets reached the conference finals. That’s the only time Denver made it past the first round in its last 11 postseason appearances. On the road against San Antonio specifically, the Nuggets have lost four straight playoff games and 13 straight regular-season games.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Denver was second in the NBA with 11.9 offensive rebounds per game during the regular season, but San Antonio has bested the Nuggets in that category during this series. The Spurs have 36 offensive rebounds through three games, and Denver has 30.

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