Bucks' Antetokounmpo exits game with lower back bruise
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo drove to the basket and took a hard fall.
And just like that, the championship aspirations of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks got quite a bit more precarious.
Antetokounmpo landed hard on his backside after getting fouled in the first quarter and left the Bucks' Eastern Conference playoff opener for good early in the second quarter on Sunday. Milwaukee lost 130-117 to the Miami Heat.
“There was an X-ray that was clear here,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’ll monitor him and see how he does, see how he wakes up, how he feels the rest of tonight and tomorrow.”
Game 2 of the series is Wednesday in Milwaukee, and the Bucks will hope the two-time MVP is feeling better by then.
“We have to wait and see what the doctors say, most importantly what Giannis says," Budenholzer said. “Certainly we've been blessed with him being resilient and quick to heal, but you’ve just got to take it day by day, see how he’s doing and see how he feels.”
Antetokounmpo got up slowly but remained in the game to take his free throws after getting fouled by Miami’s Kevin Love with 4:13 left in the first quarter. He stayed in the game until picking up his second foul about 2 1/2 minutes later.
After getting removed from the game, Antetokounmpo went to the locker room. He returned with 9:56 left in the second quarter but exited again with 8:33 left in the half and didn't return.
“Didn't look comfortable, confident,” Budenholzer said. “It felt like the right thing (to keep him out).”
Antetokounmpo had six points and three rebounds in 11 minutes.
The Heat had their own injury concerns. Miami's Tyler Herro broke his right hand late in the second quarter, putting his status for the rest of the postseason in question.
This marks the second straight season the Bucks have suffered a key injury early in their playoff run.
Three-time All-Star Khris Middleton sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Game 2 of the Bucks' opening-round series with the Chicago Bulls last season and missed Milwaukee's final 10 playoff games. The Bucks ended up losing a seven-game series to the Boston Celtics in the East semifinals.
Two years ago, Antetokounmpo hyperextended his left knee and missed the last two games of the East finals. He returned from that injury and was named the MVP of the NBA Finals after scoring 50 points in the title-clinching Game 6 victory over the Phoenix Suns that gave the Bucks their first championship in a half-century.
The Bucks are hoping Antetokounmpo shows his resilience once again.
“That’s our guy," Middleton said. “We hope he’s going to be well, he’s going to be back out there with us Wednesday, but we've just got to focus on who's out there at the same time. They had a guy go down also, and they continued to compete and play well. Same mindset we tried to have. It sucks when our guys go down or can't return but we’ve still got a job to do out there.”
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