Monday, May 20, 2024

Damian Lillard injury: Bucks star aggravates Achilles tendon, hopes to be ready for Game 4 vs. Pacers

The Milwaukee Bucks‘ injury woes continued on Friday night during their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of their first-round series. All-Star point guard Damian Lillard had a scare with his knee and aggravated his Achilles tendon, but hopes to be ready to go for a pivotal Game 4 on Sunday. 

Late in the first quarter, Lillard drove to the basket for a tough layup and Pascal Siakam landed on his ankle. Lillard twisted his knee in the process and stayed down on the ground in clear pain before hobbling to the bench and down the tunnel. His stay in the locker room turned out to be brief, however, and he hit some big shots to get the Bucks back in the game. While Lillard said his knee was “a little uncomfortable” the rest of the way, he didn’t feel like he was putting himself in “danger.” 

The more serious issue was not as noticeable, but occurred late in the fourth quarter on a play where the Bucks were trying to foul to send the Pacers to the free throw line. As he was trying to guard Andrew Nembhard, he tweaked his Achilles and was wincing as he went to pick up Patrick Beverley after the whistle. Lillard remained in the game but did not take a shot in overtime. 

“Honestly, Dame was really struggling,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said. “In the overtime, he literally said, ‘I’ll be the decoy. I just can’t go as far as explosion.’ So I thought Dame just being out there was huge for us.”

Lillard said during his post-game press conference that his “plan” is to play in Game 4, but whether he’ll be able to go, or have his usual agility and explosiveness remains to be seen. 

“I think tonight, it was just so fresh, just re-aggravated after having a whole week where you could kind of get it together,” Lillard said. “But I just wanted to be on the floor in case some opportunity came up or however I could help. But obviously tonight, we’re gonna get back and just have to get ahead of it because that’s not something you want to play with. 

“It’s one of those spots on your body where you literally can’t do nothing about it. If you can’t move, you can’t move. So we got a couple days, tonight, to start to try to get ahead of it and just get it feeling better, try to get ready for Sunday.”

Lillard sat out of practice for a few days in the lead up to Game 1 of this series in order to address some nagging injuries, including a sore Achilles. Though he admitted he was initially “concerned,” the time off helped him get right and he felt like himself to start the series. 

That was evident as he poured in a record-setting 35 points in the first half of Game 1. In the other five halves in this series, though, he has a combined 62 points on 16-of-46 (34.7%) from the field. As a result, the Bucks have dropped Games 2 and 3 and now find themselves down 2-1 in the series. 

A hampered Lillard is the last thing the Bucks need in the circumstances. Khris Middleton sprained his ankle in Game 2 and Giannis Antetokounmpo has not played since April 9 due to a calf strain. While Middleton was able to summon the strength for a throwback performance on Friday, it would be asking a lot for him to do that again in Game 4 on a bum ankle. Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, remains out indefinitely. 

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