Milwaukee’s hopes to repeat as NBA Champions took a hit Wednesday night.
All-Star forward Khris Middleton was forced out of the Bucks’ 114-110 loss to Chicago after suffering a sprained MCL in the second and will undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the injury.
“Obviously, (he’s upset). I’d be upset, too,” guard Jrue Holiday said when asked how Middleton was feeling. “He’s been great all year. He’s one of our leaders and then Game 2 of the first series, I’d be a little hurt. But he’s always been positive and he knows what type of team that we are and how resilient we are. We just want him to get back as quickly as possible and be healthy so that he can come out here and help us win games.”
Middleton suffered the injury about midway through the fourth quarter and Milwaukee trailing by 14. The veteran drove to the rim, and as he tried to spin his right leg slipped and sent him to the floor awkwardly. He was able to get the ball to Brook Lopez for a layup but he didn’t get up right away and eventually limped to the bench.
“You’re thinking, ‘I hope this is not bad. I hope this is not bad. I hope this is not bad. We need this guy,'” Giannis Antetokounmpo said of his reaction to Middleton going down. “When he asked for the sub, you know that it’s kind of bothering him because he doesn’t leave the game if he’s not hurting.”
Middleton struggled to shoot the ball in Game 1 but broke out in the third quarter Wednesday night. He scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, including 13 in the third. It helped the Bucks storm back from an 18-point deficit to get within three.
Losing that scoring punch in a series that is now tied 1-1 and a lot more interesting than many expected it to be is a significant blow, especially if it’s an extended absence.
“We’ve got to focus on ourselves and we have a job to do here,” Antetokounmpo said. “Obviously, Khris
is one of the best players on the team. If he’s not able to be with us, it’s gonna be a tremendous loss for us. But at the end of the day we’ve got guys that hopefully can step up and we can still do our job and compete and and enjoy the game. Hopefully, it’s not something very serious and he can come back and join us very soon.”
Antetokounmpo has a sense of what Middleton is going through at the moment. Last summer, the two-time MVP went down in the Eastern Conference Finals with what looked like a gruesome knee injury that many thought would force him to miss the rest of the playoffs. Instead, he missed just two games and returned to lead Milwaukee to a title. But he admitted there is very little anyone can say to Middleton at this point.
“It’s tough. I know that feeling. You really don’t want to listen to nobody, don’t want to talk to nobody because you really don’t know what it is,” Antetokounmpo said. “Until (Thursday), you’re expecting the worst and hoping for the best. He knows we’re by his side. I don’t need to say (that) in the media. He knows that he’s my brother no matter what. We need him to win and we’re going to pray — I’m gonna pray — for the best and hopefully it’s not too bad.”
Game 3 of the series is set for Friday in Chicago.