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Mar 21, 2024 6:18 am

Bucks face Nets with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s status in doubt

Antetokounmpo

The Milwaukee Bucks hope to have star Giannis Antetokounmpo back in the lineup when they play host to the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday.

The Bucks (44-25) begin a three-game homestand with the matchup against the Nets (26-43), whose chances of earning a spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament are fading with 13 games remaining. The Nets have lost four straight, leaving them 4 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final play-in spot.

Antetokounmpo missed his second straight game on Wednesday, when Milwaukee trailed by as many as 21 points in a 122-119 road loss to the Boston Celtics. The two-time MVP remained home to treat his left hamstring injury.

“He’s feeling good, not great,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said before Wednesday’s game. “Those things are something you don’t take a chance on. Especially now. … Giannis probably would’ve come (to Boston) if it was up to him, but these are the ones you just have to say no and let him get better.”

Damian Lillard scored 32 points in the loss to the Celtics, while Bobby Portis added 24 points and 15 rebounds. Milwaukee rallied in the fourth quarter before falling to 3-2 without Antetokounmpo this season.

“It was one of those games where they kept getting the lead, we kept fighting back. As far as that, you love that,” Rivers said. “We end up shooting the ball better than them. …

“We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds with turnovers, offensive rebounds, bad possessions defensively. All of those are great things for us to watch film and to learn and get better. This is a good learning opportunity for us. That’s how I look at it.”

Milwaukee won the previous two meetings against Brooklyn this season, both on the road, 129-125 on Nov. 6 and 144-122 on Dec. 27. Antetokounmpo averaged 34 points and 11 rebounds in the two victories.

The Nets were held to 36.9 percent shooting in a 104-91 home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. Cam Thomas scored 25 points to lead Brooklyn, which trailed by 24 points in the second quarter.

Thomas, who has scored at least 20 points in a career-high six straight games, expressed his frustration with the team’s skid following the Tuesday defeat.

“It’s exhausting,” Thomas said about talking to reporters after losses. “At the same time, we have to do it so we don’t say the same stuff over and over. We just have to go out there and do what we say up here. Even down to me, everybody, we have to do what we say up here — the effort, energy, whatever all that is, we just have to do it.”

One bright spot in the loss to New Orleans was the play of reserve center Day’Ron Sharpe, who grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds.

The game also served as a milestone for forward Mikal Bridges, who played his 500th consecutive contest. Bridges owns the longest active streak in the NBA.

“Nobody sees the practices that he doesn’t sit out,” Brooklyn interim coach Kevin Ollie said. “Everybody focuses on the game, but he’s there in practice and his workouts and doing his things that he does in the dark when nobody is looking is more impressive to me than just the games. He’s never absent to anything, he’s always present.”

–Field Level Media

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