Big Bucks duo takes on banged-up Bulls
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton look to continue their stretch of offensive dominance Friday night as the Milwaukee Bucks host the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls.
The banged-up Bulls, meantime, are starting a three-game road trip without starting guards Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine. The team left both players at home with knee injuries, and although LaVine’s ailment is not expected to keep him out for too long, the team acknowledged Thursday that Ball will miss probably six weeks as he undergoes surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee.
Milwaukee has been getting monster production from the duo of Antetokounmpo and Middleton over the past six games, as they have combined to average 57.2 points, 17.3 rebounds, and 13.7 assists. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31.5 points while Middleton is averaging 25.7.
Their efforts on Wednesday night helped the Bucks to a 126-114 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Antetokounmpo finished with 33 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, and Middleton notched 27 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“At the end of the day you got to play through contact, you got to try and get to your spots,” Antetokounmpo said. “You got to be mentally tough, you got to do whatever it takes to help your team.”
Jrue Holiday returned after missing six games with an ankle injury, and contributed nine points, five rebounds and four assists in 22 minutes of action.
“I’m happy that he’s (Holiday) back, I’m happy that he’s getting his rhythm,” Antetokounmpo said. “He’s going to definitely help us moving forward — defensively and offensively.”
Chicago is also coming off a win after snapping a four-game losing streak with a 117-104 win against Cleveland on Wednesday night.
The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan led all scorers in that one, with 30 points and seven rebounds on 14-of-24 shooting. Nikola Vucevic recorded 24 points and 12 rebounds. Ayo Dosunmu contributed 18 points, and Coby White posted 16.
With Ball and LaVine out, Dosunmu and White have taken over backcourt duties for the time being. Bulls head coach Billy Donovan says he has been impressed with what the guards have shown with increased minutes.
“I think those two guys playing with each other has been good considering we haven’t really had a chance to do it a whole lot,” Donovan said. “Both of them are unselfish, both of them get downhill, and Coby’s been able to score at a pretty high level for most of his career in the NBA.”
In addition to Ball and LaVine, Derrick Jones Jr. is out with a bone bruise in his right knee, and Patrick Williams is sidelined with torn ligaments in his wrist. Javonte Green has also been out since Jan. 1 with a groin injury.
The Bulls did get Alex Caruso back on Wednesday after he missed 13 games due to a foot injury. The 6-foot-5 guard had nine points in his return and his averaging 8.4 on the season.
“I thought he got better as the game went on and probably felt a little bit more comfortable,” Donovan said. “Just to have a voice with some of the new guys I think helps and certainly Alex provides that.”
Friday marks the first game of the four-game season series between the Bulls and the Bucks.
–Field Level Media