Wednesday was a bad day for the Milwaukee Bucks.
First, they lost their home-court advantage when the Chicago Bulls defeated them in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, 114-110, tying the matchup at one win apiece.
But Milwaukee also lost one of its best players, Khris Middleton, when he exited in the middle of the fourth quarter with a sprained MCL.
He will miss the rest of the series, and he is expected to be out for at least two weeks.
Milwaukee Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton has an MCL sprain in his left knee and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, sources tell ESPN. Bucks will have to play without Middleton for the rest of this first-round series against Chicago.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 21, 2022
The Bucks’ task of getting past a young and talented Chicago team has gotten tougher, as Middleton is considered by many to be their second-best player.
But perhaps they can get by while he is recovering, assuming he is ready to return at some point in the next round of the postseason, if they get there.
Yes, Middleton Is Very Important To Milwaukee
There is no question that the Bucks need Middleton if they are to repeat as NBA world champs this summer.
He was their second-leading scorer in the regular season with 20.1 points per game, and they often look to him in the fourth quarter when the game slows down.
In last year’s playoffs, Middleton came up big multiple times in crunch time, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Atlanta Hawks and in Game 4 of the NBA Finals versus the Phoenix Suns.
He made the All-Star team this year for the third time, and his ability to manufacture points one-on-one, as well as to hit the open man when needed, is undeniable.
However, there is reason for Bucks fans to be cautiously optimistic in the short term.
The Bucks Still Have Plenty Of Offensive Firepower
Even without Middleton, Milwaukee still boasts point guard Jrue Holiday, who is perfectly capable of going off himself when the team needs him to.
In Game 5 of the championship series versus the Suns last year, he had 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from beyond the arc, along with 13 assists to help the Bucks claim the pivotal game of the matchup.
Holiday is also a great defensive presence, and that defense will help them hold the fort with Middleton out.
Jrue Holiday has contested 34 shots this playoffs.
25 ended up as misses. pic.twitter.com/UOTBnCy2fp
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 21, 2022
They will need big man Bobby Portis to step up offensively, and he is a man who averaged 14.6 points a game in the regular season while shooting 39.3 percent from downtown.
Of course, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who could win his third MVP award in a matter of weeks, is still around, and he has become a big-game player in the past 12 months.
This is a prime opportunity for him to step things up in Middleton’s absence and prove that he’s still the best player in basketball.
In addition, according to ESPN.com, the Bucks have outscored their opponents by 7.8 points per 100 possessions when Antetokounmpo and Holiday played but Middleton didn’t.
Make no mistake: They will need Middleton back in order to advance past the second round of the playoffs versus either the Boston Celtics or Brooklyn Nets and return to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But for now, against a young Bulls team that doesn’t yet know how to win or close, Milwaukee might be fine.