Hopes in the Milwaukee Bucks Championship rest on the shoulders of reigning double MVP Giannis Antetokounmpot. It may seem like simplifying an extremely complex and difficult road to the NBA Finals, but as far as Milwaukee is concerned, that’s it, that’s all.
Although Antetokounmpo has been by far the best player in the regular season for the past two years, he has not brought that same success deep into the playoffs. Opposing teams tossed it to zero, filled it with color, and made anyone else in a good green and creamy city cream jersey beat them. It has come so far that the term “build a wall” in Bucks ’social media circles is better known as a defensive strategy to stop the Greek freak than a promise from the previous presidential administration. His declining post-season game is a big reason why the Bucks flared up early in consecutive playoff playoffs.
Now, Antetokounmpo has another potential hurdle he has to overcome – the long-running knee issue.
This is nothing new for the face of the franchise, because during his career he struggled with a smaller but notable history of knee alimony. This release last raised its ugly head in March 2020 when it changed its knee in the showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the seriousness may have been masked after the season closed two seasons later (both of which he missed) and resumed only at the end of July.
Antetokounmpo was listed as suspicious in the game against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, and if he doesn’t come out, it will be the fifth time in the last 10 games that he hasn’t been in the game because of his knees.
He first played a game against the Indiana Pacers on March 22 before playing a consecutive set against the Boston Celtics (with a one-day break in between). He then took part in a competition against the New York Knicks, which happened to be second in return. In short, the affair seemed to be behind him, as he played in three consecutive games from March 29 to April 2 (each with a day in between). However, then the drama really intensified.
In the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on April 2, Antetokounmpo had some discomfort in the warm-ups before the game. On one occasion, but on two occasions, he was seen making a serious grimace and walking to the side. For better or worse, he fought through apparent pain, played in the game and finished with an incredible 47 points in shooting 18 for 21 (18 for 18 inside the arc) and 12 rebounds.
This is where it starts to become checkered. Antetokounmpo missed the next game against the Sacramento Kings and was then listed as likely for their next competition against the Golden State Warriors. However, he missed the game due to the same knee pain and is now suspicious against the Mavericks. As Milwaukee plays another game on Friday night, there will be a quick turnaround to see how the Bucks continue to approach the issue.
Overall, the Bucks are 3-2 without Antetokounmpo, including a desperate stance against the Kings and a late collapse against the Warriors. Not the worst, but certainly not the Brooklyn Nets who went 19-4 without superstar Kevin Durant.
Speaking of the Nets, Milwaukee currently ranks third in the Eastern Conference – 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia 76ers and three behind Brooklyn. They have back-to-back against each of these teams in late April and then early May and until then they have to stay at an incredible distance. Milwaukee would be best served to at least gain a home field advantage in a second-round game. Anything else and they could prepare for an early exit for the third consecutive season.
Circling backwards, even more important than sowing is the health of Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee has absolutely zero chance of reaching the championship goal unless it is 100 percent. That means they have to be extremely careful about moving forward and making sure he’s completely healthy before they return to the basketball court. While they don’t say much in public, you can bet they do their homework and get as much information as possible about Antetokounmpo’s knee.
The second half of this covid-shortened season is great. Even by previous NBA standards. Counting the game on Thursday night against the Mavs, they have 22 games in the last 41 days of the season. That includes seven more (!) Back to back.
There is currently no reason to think that this injury is something big that will delay him for weeks. It is still listed as everyday and there was no data to suggest that anything was serious. However, the absence of games with a vague ailment, such as a knee injury, is a daunting proposition. Especially when it comes to a player who holds the future of the Bucks in his hands just as definitely as Antetokounmpo does.
Such persistent knee injuries are never a positive development – especially for big men who are 7 feet tall and who rely so much on their athleticism. Milwaukee must bring this issue under control – in early April – instead of allowing it to linger for the next five or more weeks and enter the playoffs. They can’t worry about load management after May 16 (their last games of the regular season) and expect to undo the 76ers and / or the Nets.
In order for the Bucks to qualify for the NBA Finals, they need the best possible version of Antetokounmpo. Furthermore, they need to be the best player on the field in each series. Neither is possible if this issue continues. It’s time to get under control.