MIAMI (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t ready to play, and the Milwaukee Bucks seem to not know when that status will change.
Antetokounmpo was ruled out by the Bucks for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series against the Miami Heat on Saturday night because of a bruised lower back — the second consecutive game that he had to sit.
“We’ll continue to monitor him, through the day tomorrow, through the day the next day,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before Saturday’s game. “He’s not in a place where he can go, so we’ll just continue to monitor and work with him and hope for the best.”
Game 4 of Bucks-Heat is Monday.
Antetokounmpo is one of many big names dealing with injuries already in these playoffs. He’s an MVP finalist this season, as is Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid — and the 76ers’ star is also ailing right now.
Embiid sat out Philadelphia’s series-clinching win in Brooklyn earlier Saturday with a sprained right knee. The 76ers won’t play until next weekend at the earliest, but the 76ers aren’t even sure if Embiid will be ready then.
“Probably 50%, at best,” 76ers coach Doc Rivers said.
The Los Angeles Clippers lost to Phoenix on Saturday and fell into a 3-1 hole in that series after playing again without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George — both, like Embiid, also dealing with sprained right knees.
Miami will be without last season’s Sixth Man award winner Tyler Herro for several weeks because of a broken hand that was surgically repaired on Friday. And Memphis guard Ja Morant has been dealing with a right hand injury as well.
Playing without top players obviously weakens a team, but can be a rallying cry for their teammates, Budenholzer said.
“Every team, there’s a bond and there’s a desire to be there for each other,” Budenholzer said. “I think that just heightens the competitiveness, heightens the desire when Giannis or Kawhi Leonard or Joel Embiid (is out) and those teammates, they want to be there for a guy when he’s injured and can’t play. It’s a little bit of that human nature. It’s the playoffs. Hopefully those things have some positive impact, but you have to go out and play.”
Saturday’s was the second full game that Antetokounmpo missed in the series. He played only 11 minutes of Game 1, was ruled out for the remainder of that game after being diagnosed with a back contusion and then did not play Wednesday in Milwaukee’s series-tying Game 2 victory.
Milwaukee entered Saturday 12-8 this season when Antetokounmpo doesn’t play in a game.
Antetokounmpo is a two-time MVP and one of the three finalists — joining Embiid and two-time reigning winner Nikola Jokic of Denver — for the league’s top individual trophy this season. He averaged 31.1 points this season, fifth-best in the NBA, along with 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists.
Without Antetokounmpo in Game 2, the Bucks didn’t miss a beat. They led by as many as 36 points on the way to a 138-122 victory, one where Milwaukee made 25 3-pointers and shot 54% from the field.
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