May 18, 2024

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Giannis Antetokounmpo's injury cast a dark pall over the Bucks' win over the Celtics

Giannis Antetokounmpo's injury cast a dark pall over the Bucks' win over the Celtics

MILWAUKEE — Up until 3:40 remaining in the third quarter of Tuesday's game against the Boston Celtics, things were looking good for the Milwaukee Bucks. In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Bucks are 15 points ahead of the only 60-win team in the NBA.

Then disaster struck.

Without contacting another player, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo fell to the ground while running on the court and immediately grabbed the lower half of his left leg.

After sitting briefly with his teammates and coach surrounding him, Antetokounmpo put his weight on his leg and then put his arm around the shoulders of teammates Brook Lopez and Tanasis Antetokounmpo to help them get off the ground. Ultimately, Antetokounmpo returned to the Bucks' locker room under his own power.

During the fourth quarter of Milwaukee's 104-91 win, the Bucks announced that Antetokounmpo was suffering from a strain in his left soleus, a muscle in his calf. After the game, Bucks coach Doc Rivers told reporters that Antetokounmpo underwent further tests after the game on both his left leg, as well as his left Achilles tendon.

“They're testing it for the calf, and it's obviously an MRI,” Rivers said. “They'll check them both, yes.”

While Rivers confirmed more testing was being done, he said it has not yet been completed and that Antetokounmpo had just left the arena to take the shot.

Bucks point guard Damian Lillard, who was lifting the ball to start an offensive possession, was the closest player to Antetokounmpo on the play when he saw Antetokounmpo go down.

“Anytime you see one of your teammates go down, it's a real level of anxiety,” Lillard said. “We spend a lot of time around each other, more than we do with our family, so I think that was the No. 1 thing. And then for him to become your best player, and the most important part of our team, at this point in the season, it was kind of an 'oh' moment.” “Especially because there was no one else around.”

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“And I was right next to him. So I just saw kind of his facial expression, like his reaction. So, obviously, I got scared. I knew we were going to call a timeout, so I dribbled all the way to half court, and when he stood up, I knew he wanted to try to make his weight.” And I saw him putting some weight on it and it was like his reaction was what made him kind of back down. But I saw him putting weight on it. So I was like, 'Okay.' It seems stronger than I thought it would be.”

“And to see him being able to get out on his own, I think that showed me a lot. And obviously that was encouraging. And now you just want him to get better.”

Rivers agreed with Lillard that there is real concern about Antetokounmpo's health progress, especially with the NBA playoffs starting on April 20.

“High, I would say,” Rivers said of his anxiety level. “But it's Giannis. I think everyone probably feels the same way I do right now. We're just hoping for the best.”

With Tuesday's win, Milwaukee rose to 48-31 on the season. With three games remaining in the regular season, the Bucks are one game ahead of the New York Knicks for second place in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks also maintain a tiebreaker over the Knicks, but have more concerns in the standings.

The Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers are two games behind the Bucks as well. The Cleveland Cavaliers hold the record for a tiebreaker over the Bucks, but have now lost three straight and won just three of their last 10. On the other hand, a tiebreaker is up in the air against the Magic, who face the Bucks twice in their last three regular-season games — first Wednesday night in Milwaukee and then Sunday in Orlando in the regular-season finale of both. difference.

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In the intervals between their meetings with the Magic, the Bucks face the Thunder team, which they defeated on March 24 in Oklahoma City. This season, the Bucks have gone 3-3 in games Antetokounmpo hasn't played.

The Bucks have not yet announced the results of any of Antetokounmpo's additional post-game imaging.

So, at this point, the only diagnosis the team has made is a left soleus strain. The soleus muscle is one of the two muscles that make up the calf, so teams often refer to soleus strains as a more general calf strain, but there are instances where teams have determined that a player is suffering from a soleus strain. One of those instances occurred last season with Lillard, when he was a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

“It hurts,” Lillard said when asked by whom The athlete About what it felt like to suffer the same injury in the first month of the 2022-23 season. “It hurts. … When I do that, I'm usually able to let things go. I feel like I have a high pain tolerance and when I did that, I started walking, and not only was it painful, it was like the muscles couldn't Dealing with him.

“So, I think once it calmed down, I figured out a way around it, but it's a weird feeling. But hearing that, I know, I know that feeling. And also as someone who's experienced that — if that's the case — that's encouraging, too.”

As for Lillard, his sole injury actually came after a calf injury in the same leg that sidelined him earlier in the season. Lillard was first listed on the injury report with a right calf strain on Nov. 6, 2022, but played through the injury until eventually suffering a soleus strain a few weeks later.

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“When I did that, I strained my calf and then, probably eight or nine days later, I strained my calf,” Lillard said. “And then…I had the sole injury right after I came back. I think it was like a game or two after I came back, I did the sole exercises. And after that, it was like two weeks. For me, it was like two weeks and then I came back and played.”

Lillard was first listed on Portland's injury report with a right soleus strain on November 20 and did not play again until the Trail Blazers played the Indiana Pacers on December 4, about 14 days after the initial diagnosis.

For the Bucks, the NBA playoffs are just 11 days away, so Antetokounmpo's timeline will depend entirely on how severe the soleus strain is and whether or not that's the only injury that has occurred when the team gets test results Tuesday night.

(Photo by Giannis Antetokounmpo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)