Saturday, April 1, 2023

Middleton could stay out even if the Bucks go ahead

Milwaukee ( Associated Press) — Chris Middleton may not have been available for the Eastern Conference Finals, even though the Milwaukee Bucks made it this far.

The three-time All-Star missed the Bucks’ last 10 games after spraining the medial collateral ligament In his left knee in Game 2 of the first-round series with the Chicago Bulls. Middleton knocked out Milwaukee’s entire second-round series with the Boston Celtics, defeating the Bucks in seven games and beginning the Conference Finals in Miami on Tuesday.

“I don’t know if I would have been ready for tomorrow,” Middleton said on Monday. “I don’t know if I’d be ready if I went to Game 7. It was almost a day-to-day thing, just waking up and seeing how I felt, seeing if there’s swelling, and there’s a point where you have to This is to make sure the ligament has fully healed.”

Middleton’s absence was an unfortunate turn of events for the Bucks, who benefited from injuries to other teams during their title run last season. Bucks win seven-game prior semi-final James Harden was dropped in the first four games with the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving in the last three games after the injury.

Bucks lose Giannis Antetokounmpo to knee injury East for two games in the Finals, but he returned to become the MVP of the NBA Finals.

“It just wasn’t our time,” said forward Bobby Portis. “All teams that go through a playoff stretch have luck on their way. We’ve had good luck in a few series last year, where we went with teams that went through some injuries. ,

Boston was missing forward/center Robert Williams in the last four games due to a bone injury in his right knee, but this only underscored the Celtics’ superior depth.

Williams was replaced in the starting lineup by Grant Williams, who scored a career-high 27 points and set a Game 7 record by sinking seven 3-pointers in the Celtics’ 109-81 victory in the Celtics’ series on Sunday. No player in the Bucks made a move in the same way.

This forced the Bucks to rely even more on Antetokounmpo and Jure Holiday.

Antetokounmpo was the first player to score 200 points, 100 rebounds and 50 assists in the playoff series. Holiday, who attempted more than 21 shots in a game only twice during the regular season, averaged 22 shots per game in the Celtics series.

“If we had Kris, it’s not that I’m trying to make excuses, but maybe a different story,” Antetokounmpo said after Sunday’s game. “But we gave everything we had. The boys come together. We realize, ‘Hey, we have to get better. We have to get better as a team. We want more of it. We have to play our games. Will have to work on it. ,

He also needs to improve his playoff 3-point shooting.

Milwaukee finished fourth in the league in 3-pointers per game (14.1) and fifth in 3-point percentage (36.6%) during the regular season. The Bucks made 38% of their 3-point attempts in their first-round series.

That all changed in the second round as the Celtics scored almost twice as many 3-pointers as the Bucks. Milwaukee went beyond the arc 57 out of 204 (27.9%) while Boston was 110 out of 292 (37.6%).

The Bucks’ challenge is finding the right people to complement the trio of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday.

Milwaukee’s depths took a hit with the off-season departure of PJ Tucker, Now with Miami. The Bucks’ top off-season finisher was Grayson Allen, who played well in the regular season and in the first-round playoff series against Chicago. But after going 3 for 6 on 3-point attempts against Boston in Game 1, Allen went 2 for 18 in the next six games.

“In Game 1, I got three good opens and knocked them down,” Allen said. “It felt like (the game) 2-7, easy catch-and-shoot, spot-ups were few and very hard to come by.”

At the trade deadline, the Bucks sent Deonte DiVincenzo to Sacramento as part of a four-team deal, which brought him Serge Ibaka, Which went out of rotation by April. Portis and Pat Connaughton have player options for next season and can opt for free agency.

The Bucks should continue to compete for the title as long as their top three men remain healthy, although age is a cause for concern.

Antetokounmpo, 27, was one of the younger players in the Bucks’ rotation this season. Holiday will turn 32 next month, and Middleton will turn 31 this summer. Brooke Lopez is 34, Wesley Matthews is 35 and George Hill is 36.

This playoff exit should add motivation.

“Hopefully, at this moment, instead of thinking that we have lost something, we can gain and learn so that we can put ourselves in a position to win another championship,” Antetokounmpo said.


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