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Bucks vs. Pacers: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard out with injury for must-win Game 5

MILWAUKEE –Milwaukee Bucks stars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard were both ruled out of Game 5 of the team’s first-round playoff series with the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. The Bucks are down 3-1 and must win this game to avoid a second consecutive first-round exit. 

Antetokounmpo is still rehabbing a calf strain that has kept him out since April 9, while Lillard is sidelined with an Achilles injury that occurred late in Game 3 and ruled him out of Game 4. Based on Bucks head coach Doc Rivers’ quotes, it doesn’t seem like either were all that close to playing. 

“[Antetokounmpo] didn’t do a lot [at shootaround],” Rivers said during his pre-game press conference. “Did some shooting again. Did more after I left, but I didn’t see it. Dame didn’t do anything.”

The one bit of good news for the Bucks is that Khris Middleton will be able to go. He will not be at 100%, however, after spraining his right ankle in Game 2 and his left ankle in Game 4. Middleton put up a playoff career-high 42 points and hit two game-tying 3-pointers in the team’s heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 3. They may need something along those lines on Tuesday if they want to keep their season alive. 

Rivers also called on his team to play with a renewed level of focus. 

“We gotta value every possession,” Rivers said. “We don’t have a lot of wiggle room for mistakes. I think we counted 19 points that we gifted them last game in transition or missed coverages. When you have that much offense out, you can’t do that. You don’t have to play perfect, obviously, because that’s impossible, but you have to have great focus, especially on the little things.”

That includes keeping control of their emotions in what is sure to be another combative game. These two teams developed a real rivalry this season, which has not let up during this series — not that anyone expected it would. There have been a number of flashpoints and pointed quotes, with Bobby Portis playing a leading role. 

Early in Game 4, Portis was ejected for his role in a scrap with Andrew Nembhard, which left his team without three of its top four scorers from the regular season. While the Bucks shot well early in that game, they ran out of steam and scoring in the fourth quarter, in large part because of Portis’ absence. 

Portis feeds off the Milwaukee crowd and plays much better at Fiserv Forum. For the season, he averaged 15.5 points on 53.6% shooting at home, compared to 12 points on 47.2% shooting on the road. He can be a difference maker in Game 5, but only if he stays on the court. 

“It’s tough, because you want him to play on that line because it’s what fuels Bobby,” Rivers said. “But you obviously cannot leave your team no matter what the circumstances are, especially in the playoffs. That’s a discipline that we all have to learn every day, and I think Bobby understands that.” 

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