The Milwaukee Bucks hope to do what they do best — follow a loss with a win — when they continue a Western swing Sunday afternoon against the Phoenix Suns.
But this time they could find their situation complicated by an additional obstacle — the possible absence of star Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks lost for just the 10th time Friday night, falling 113-103 to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Milwaukee has followed its previous nine defeats by winning the next game, and by an average of 17.0 points.
Coincidentally, they also were coming off a defeat (against Denver) when they hosted the Suns last month. Milwaukee won that game 129-108, getting 30 points, 19 rebounds and nine assists from Antetokounmpo.
The Milwaukee star injured his left knee in the fourth quarter of the loss in Los Angeles, but he was able to finish the game.
The Bucks had Saturday off, but ESPN reported that Antetokounmpo couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to catch a Milwaukee Brewers spring training game in the Phoenix area. It was reported that he underwent what was described as a “precautionary” MRI on his knee.
With the second half of a back-to-back staring the Bucks in the face Monday night at Denver, the club has a decision on what to do with its hobbled star against the Suns.
“He made it look and sound like he was OK,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer assured reporters after Friday’s game. “Any time anybody takes a fall — Giannis isn’t any different than anybody else, we need everybody — so yeah, it was pretty scary. Hopefully, everything is fine.
“We do have to protect him from himself, but pretty confident that he was OK to keep going.”
The Bucks return home after the Denver game and get two days off before hosting Boston on Thursday.
Khris Middleton went for 25 points in the earlier win over the Suns. He hit three 3-pointers, and five teammates knocked down two apiece, helping the Bucks outscore the visitors 45-18 from behind the arc.
Devin Booker (32 points) and Deandre Ayton (20 points, 14 rebounds) did their best to keep up with the Bucks’ big two, but the Phoenix supporting cast was no match for Milwaukee’s depth, even with Kelly Oubre Jr. notching a second double-double for the Suns with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Oubre won’t be available to the Suns on Sunday — or perhaps for the rest of the month — after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Tuesday.
In his absence, and with Ayton taking the night off to rest a sprained left ankle, the Suns dusted off another weapon in Friday’s 127-117 home win over Portland. Backup big man Aron Baynes bombed in a franchise-record nine 3-pointers in a career-best 37-point explosion.
Afterward, Booker, who turned into more of a ball distributor (12 assists) than a scorer (23 points) in the win, acknowledged that Baynes’ big night wasn’t exactly by design.
“We just take what the defense gives us, honestly,” he noted to reporters. “I’d look like an (idiot) if I didn’t pass the ball to those guys standing with nobody 6 to 10 feet away from them.”
The win was the Suns’ first in five tries on a six-game homestand that ends Sunday.
–Field Level Media