Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks has a Grade 2 MCL sprain and is not expected to return at any point during their second-round series against the Boston Celtics, according to The Athletic. Middleton could reportedly miss the conference finals, too, should the defending-champion Bucks get past the Celtics without him.
Middleton suffered the injury during Game 2 of Milwaukee’s first-round series against the Chicago Bulls last Wednesday, at which point the team announced that he’d be reevaluated in approximately two weeks. The Bucks lost the game in which he got hurt, but won the next three, eliminating the Bulls with a 116-100 victory on Wednesday. In those games, Grayson Allen stepped up offensively, scoring a combined 62 points on 34 field-goal attempts, including 14 for 20 from 3-point range.
“We’ve been talking about the depth of the roster, the quality of the roster a lot this season,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said after Game 5.” Other guys have gotten opportunities and played well and our defense has tightened up and we’ve leaned hard on that these three games. But we’ve got depth, we’ve got a good group, we miss Khris — I don’t think anybody underestimates how important, how effective he is for us. But while we don’t have him, we have to be our best all up and down the roster.”
When the Bucks visit Boston on Sunday, they will likely continue to start Bobby Portis in Middleton’s place, but making up for the hole in the lineup will be much more difficult than it was against Chicago. The Celtics had the best defense in the NBA in the regular season, and Milwaukee will have to try to find holes in it without its primary pick-and-roll playmaker. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday will be looking at the same sort of help defense that the Brooklyn Nets‘ Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving saw in the first round, mitigated only somewhat by their team’s superior spacing.
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Middleton’s absence will be felt on the other end, too, where Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will have more favorable matchups to exploit. Expect Boston to target Portis in the pick-and-roll to try to get the Bucks in rotation. Unlike the Bulls, the Celtics do not play numerous non-shooters who can be ignored on the perimeter. Milwaukee will need reserve wing Pat Connaughton to hold up as well as he did during last year’s title run.
During the regular season, Middleton averaged 20.1 points on 57.7 percent true shooting, plus 5.4 assists and 5.4 rebounds in 32.4 minutes. The Bucks outscored opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions with Middleton on the court, per Cleaning The Glass, and outscored opponents by just 0.1 per 100 with him off the court.