Repeat after me: playoff injuries suck.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Khris Middleton, the latest star to be plagued by injury during this postseason, is likely to miss extended time. The Bucks’ All-Star suffered a Grade 2 sprain to his left MCL, and he is expected to miss the entire second-round series against the Boston Celtics. If the Bucks were to defeat the Celtics in this series and advance to the Conference Finals, his status would still be up in the air, given the timetable that is typically associated with recovery from a Grade 2 sprain.
Prior to this morning’s report, Middleton’s status had remained relatively unknown. He suffered the injury in Game 2 of Milwaukee’s first round series against the Chicago Bulls — the Bucks finished off the series last night, defeating the Bulls 116-100 and winning the series 4-1 — and the team immediately noted that he’d be reevaluated in two weeks.
Middleton later said, “They say two weeks, hopefully I’ll be ready or close to getting back on the court around then,” though he also noted that the Bucks are no stranger to facing adversity as a group, especially in the postseason. “It’ll be the same thing we did it last year as a group, when Giannis went down,” Middleton said. “Everybody stepped up and played a major part. I expect nothing less.”
Despite the team’s initial timeframe, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported just yesterday that the Bucks anticipated him missing even more time. “There’s not a sense that he’s going to get reevaluated at two weeks and then all of a sudden be back at practice and be ready to play,” Wojnarowski said Wednesday on NBA Today. “That’s a benchmark in this process. But the Bucks ... may have to get through another series, a conference semifinal, before they may have the opportunity to get Khris Middleton back in this season.”
Last postseason, former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered a severe hyperextension of his left knee during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals between his Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. Antetokounmpo, though, avoided serious injury and returned in the NBA Finals, which the Bucks ultimately won. (Giannis did, however, later say that he should not have played in Game 1 of the Finals.)
Middleton, evidently, did not avoid serious injury like his teammate. And like the rest of the Bucks did last postseason when Giannis went down, they’ll have to step up to replace the impact Middleton brings on both ends. In his absence for the final three games of Milwaukee’s first-round series against the Bulls, it was Grayson Allen picking up the slack. He averaged 20.7 points per game over Games 3-5, with blistering 68-70-100 shooting splits punctuating his series box score. Is that sustainable? Tough to say. But it’s cause for some extra attention.
But Allen is no Middleton, a perennial All-Star and bona fide secondary star on a championship team. Middleton’s averages against the Celtics this season — 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists — were that of a versatile stat-stuffer, and they were essential in Milwaukee winning two of four games in the season series, His loss, despite the Bucks still having Giannis and crew at their disposal, is bound to be felt to the fullest degree.
Again, repeat after me: playoff injuries suck.