Khris Middleton joins Antetokounmpo on Bucks’ list of players dealing with injuries

The Milwaukee Bucks face the possibility of continuing their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers on Friday without two of their top three players.

Khris Middleton has a sprained right ankle that kept him from practicing Thursday and puts his status in question for Game 3 in Indianapolis. The Bucks already played the first two games of this series without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has a left calf strain.

“It’s another holding-our-breath situation,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said about Middleton’s availability for Friday. “Honestly, I don’t know.”

The NBA’s injury report Thursday afternoon listed Antetokounmpo as doubtful and Middleton as questionable for Friday’s game. The Bucks and Pacers are tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven series.

Middleton was limping in the first quarter of the Bucks’ 125-108 Game 2 loss on Tuesday and briefly went into the locker room, but he returned after getting his right ankle re-taped and ended up playing 36 minutes. The three-time All-Star has averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists through the first two games.

Antetokounmpo hasn’t played since straining his left calf in an April 9 victory over the Boston Celtics. He missed the Bucks’ final three regular-season games.

“He did a lot of floor stuff today, probably the most I’ve seen,” Rivers said. “Nothing live. He was shooting and moving today.”

While speaking after the Bucks’ Thursday practice in Milwaukee, Rivers didn’t want to speculate on when Antetokounmpo could return.

“I saw him moving around and my mindset is he’s getting close,” Rivers said. “Does that mean a day, four days? I’m not sure.”

The Bucks have played without key performers on numerous occasions this year. The Bucks had their top three players — Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Damian Lillard — all available for only five of their last 35 games. That 35-game stretch covers Milwaukee’s last 33 regular-season contests and the first two games of this series.

“We’ve had games like that this season,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said. “We’re prepared for it. We’ve seen everything. Obviously we’d prefer to have them play. But if they can’t, if they have to do whatever they have to do to be healthy, stay healthy, we’ll be ready.”

The Bucks have become accustomed to dealing with injuries during the postseason.

Antetokounmpo missed the final 1½ games of a 2020 second-round loss to Miami with a sprained ankle. He didn’t play the final two games of the 2021 East finals with a hyperextended knee before returning to lead Milwaukee to the championship as the NBA Finals MVP who scored 50 points in the title-clinching victory.

Middleton missed the Bucks’ final 10 playoff games in 2022 with a sprained medial collateral ligament. Last year, a bruised lower back knocked Antetokounmpo out of Game 1 and caused him to miss the next two games in the Bucks’ first-round loss to Miami.

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