Bucks look for continued success vs. Magic
The Milwaukee Bucks hope to welcome the return of Giannis Antetokounmpo to their lineup on Monday when they open a two-game road trip against the Orlando Magic.
The Bucks recorded their fourth win of a five-game homestand on Saturday, albeit with Antetokounmpo sitting out a 100-90 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year missed the contest with back spasms, a result of a hard fall during Milwaukee's 131-118 loss to Utah on Friday.
"We are hopeful that it's a short-term thing," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "He has been managing, I think probably every season, some back, just kind of awareness and things like that."
Antetokounmpo averages team-leading totals in points per game (27.1) and rebounds (10.6) this season. He outperformed those numbers in Milwaukee's five-game Eastern Conference first-round series win vs. Orlando last season, averaging 30.6 and 16.0, respectively.
Khris Middleton picked up the slack on Saturday by scoring 27 points in the absence of Antetokounmpo. The two-time All-Star made 10 of 16 shots against the Cavaliers and is shooting 61.4 percent from the floor and 57.7 percent from 3-point range in five games this month.
Bobby Portis added 17 and 11 rebounds on Saturday while making the start in place of Antetokounmpo.
"I'm always going to be myself, that's all I know how to do," Portis said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Can't compare myself to Giannis or anything -- I have to go out there and do what I do to help the team win: run the floor, run the lanes, take good shots, rebound the basketball, play unselfishly, do all the things I do."
Orlando has cooled off considerably following a franchise-best 4-0 start to the season. The Magic fell for the fourth time in six games with a 112-98 setback at the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
Nikola Vucevic, who averages team-leading totals in points (22.0) and rebounds (11.1), recorded his seventh double-double of the season on Saturday after collecting a season high-tying 30 and 15, respectively.
Vucevic averaged 27.2 points and 10.7 rebounds in last season's playoff series loss to the Bucks.
Aaron Gordon added 16 points on Saturday in his return from a one-game absence due to a sore left hamstring.
"They're just versatile," Terrence Ross said of Vucevic and Gordon. "Vooch is really good at attacking closeouts and moving without the ball. A.G. is a really good point forward, so they're just showing their versatility and all the different things they can do."
Orlando's Evan Fournier reportedly could be back in action after missing his last five games with a balky back.
D.J. Augustin will be facing his former team for the first time since signing a three-year, $21 million contract with the Bucks in the offseason. Augustin, who is averaging 5.8 points off the bench, spent his previous four seasons with the Magic.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 10, 2021