Giannis Antetokounmpo injury update: Bucks star expected to miss start of series vs. Pacers with calf strain

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The Milwaukee Bucks are expected to be without star Giannis Antetokounmpo as they open their first-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, per ESPN. It was reported earlier that he was doubtful for Game 1, according to Shams Charania, but it sounds as though he may actually miss some more time with a calf strain. Antetokounmpo missed the Bucks’ final three regular-season games after getting injured on April 9. 

The injury occurred late in the third quarter of the Bucks’ win over the Boston Celtics on April 9. Antetokounmpo inbounded the ball to Damian Lillard and began jogging down the court when he suddenly collapsed and grabbed for his lower left leg. He was helped back to the locker room, and an MRI subsequently revealed that he had strained his calf but avoided Achilles tendon damage. 

The Bucks announced he would not play in the remainder of the regular season but did not offer a timeline beyond that. Likewise, coach Doc Rivers was unwilling or unable to provide any clarity on when the two-time MVP would be back on the court. He did, however, say that the results of the MRI offered “some relief” around the organization. 

“No timeline or anything like that,” Rivers said prior to the team’s game against the Orlando Magic on April 10. “There’s no one who’s gonna work harder than him, you know that, so he’ll be back when he should be back. We’ll find out when that is. I’m hoping [he’ll be back for Game 1 of the playoffs]. I don’t know. I’m just hoping.”

Since Antetokounmpo won his first MVP award in 2018-19, the Bucks are 39-40 without him in the lineup, including the playoffs. Milwaukee went 4-5 this season with Antetokounmpo sidelined.

Prior to the incident versus the Celtics, Antetokounmpo had missed only six games all season. He had been battling nagging injuries for months, however, including Achilles tendnitis and hamstring tendinopathy — both in his left leg. “Calves, hamstrings, they’re shaky,” Antetokounmpo said after a win over the Sixers on March 14. “If you have a strain or whatever the case may be… you don’t mess with stuff like that.”

Antetokounmpo and the Bucks may soon have to take a risk, however, or risk watching another season fade away due to injuries. The Bucks’ title defense in 2022 ended in the second round without Khris Middleton, and Antetokounmpo’s back injury played a major role in their first-round exit last season. 

Since Rivers took over, the Bucks are 3-3 without Antetokounmpo in the lineup. However, they were destroyed in each of their last two games, losing by 18 to the Oklahoma City Thunder and 25 to the Orlando Magic. If Antetokounmpo misses some or all of their first-round series, their chances of beating the Pacers — a team that has had their number all season — will take a serious hit. 

In 73 games this season, Antetokounmpo averaged 30.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and a career-high 6.5 assists on 61.1% shooting from the field. He finished second in the league in scoring, seventh in field goal percentage and was the only player to average at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. 

The Bucks will open the playoffs at home with Game 1 against the Pacers set for Sunday. 

Looking for more NBA coverage? John Gonzalez, Bill Reiter, Ashley Nicole Moss and special guests dive deep into the league’s biggest storylines daily on the Beyond the Arc podcast.

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