Giannis Antetokounmpo injury update: Bucks optimistic star can return for Game 2 vs. Heat, per report

Giannis Antetokounmpo injury update: Bucks optimistic star can return for Game 2 vs. Heat, per report

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo left the team’s 130-117 loss to the Miami Heat in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series with a lower back contusion. He suffered no structural damage, but his status for Game 2 and beyond will depend on how his back responds. The Bucks are optimistic that Antetokounmpo will be available for Game 2, per Shams Charania, but the two-time MVP is also reportedly dealing with a ligament issue in his wrist.

“There was an X-ray that was clear here, so we’ll monitor him, see how he does,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “See how he wakes up, how he feels the rest of tonight and tomorrow.”

In the middle of the first quarter, Antetokounmpo took a swing pass from Joe Ingles and drove hard to the basket. As he took off for the rim from just outside the charge circle, Kevin Love slid underneath in an attempt to take a charge. Antetokounmpo had his legs taken out in the process and crashed hard to the floor on his lower back.

The play was ruled a blocking foul on Love, and Antetokounmpo remained in the game to shoot his free throws, then continued playing for a few more minutes before checking out at the end of his usual first quarter stint. Upon exiting the game, he went straight to the locker room, but was back out on the bench for the start of the second quarter.

With 9:56 remaining in the second quarter, Antetokounmpo checked back into the game and went through a series of twists and jumps near mid-court to try and loosen up his back. He only lasted a little over a minute, however, and subbed back out with 8:33 on the clock. Moving gingerly, he again went right down the tunnel to the locker room and was officially ruled out a short time later.

The Bucks were trailing by eight when Antetokounmpo left the game and never truly recovered. A run in the third quarter briefly cut the deficit to three, but they trailed by double digits for large portions of the second half and eventually lost by 13.

“That’s our guy, we hope he’s gonna be well and back out there with us Wednesday,” Khris Middleton said. “But we just gotta focus on who’s out there at the same time. They had a guy go down also and they continued to compete and play well. Same mindset we tried to have. Sucks that our guy goes down or can’t return, but we still got a job to do out there.”

Milwaukee has plenty of experience playing without Antetokounmpo, both this season when he missed 19 games and in the 2021 playoffs when he suffered a hyperextended knee in the Eastern Conference finals. It goes without saying, though, that they would prefer to have their two-time MVP on the floor.

“We don’t want him to be hurt, but it’s still next man up mentality,” Jrue Holiday said. “We have enough talent on this team to cover for him until he comes back or possibly comes back. Again, I just don’t want to see him hurt because I know what it feels like, especially Game 1 of the playoffs.”

During the regular season, Antetokounmpo averaged 31.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game. He was the only player in the league to put up at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and five assists a night, and the Bucks were 47-16 when he played compared to 11-8 when he sat.