The Milwaukee Bucks are taking the long view with their Big Three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday in hopes of keeping the players healthy for another championship run.
All three players should be rested and available when the Bucks conclude a two-game road trip on Monday against the Orlando Magic.
After playing the first night of a back-to-back in a close loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, Milwaukee’s All-Star trio was given the night off by coach Mike Budenholzer for Saturday’s 105-96 win over Charlotte Hornets.
Bobby Portis Jr. scored 20 points in the win over Charlotte, while Jordan Nwora added 17 points and Brook Lopez and Jevon Carter each scored 14. The Bucks have won four of their last five.
“Every game is going to be different,” Portis said. “We had three of our best players out and we still got the victory. Just unselfishness, ball movement, communicating on defense. And the biggest thing is just competing and having fun. I think everybody had fun today.”
Milwaukee has won its last 10 meetings against Orlando, which has lost eight in a row to possess the league’s worst record at 5-19.
The injury-plagued Magic fell to 1-11 on the road with Saturday’s 121-108 loss to the Toronto Raptors. Orlando played without several key players, including center Wendell Carter Jr., who has missed nine straight games due to an injured right foot.
Point guard Jalen Suggs has sat out the past five games with a sore right ankle, while Gary Harris (strained right hamstring), Mo Bamba (back spasms), Jonathan Isaac (left knee) and Chuma Okeke (left knee) also are sidelined.
Orlando forward Paolo Banchero, who averaged 22.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in eight games last month, was held to nine points on 2-of-8 shooting in the loss to Toronto.
“It’s a long season, a lot of games,” Banchero said. “You’re going to have nights like this. You’ve just got to move on to the next one.”
One bright spot for the Magic in Saturday’s loss was the play of 7-foot-2 center Bol Bol, who finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.
Bol made a strong impression on Brooklyn star Kevin Durant in Orlando’s 109-102 loss to the Nets last Monday.
“He’s unique,” Durant said. “He’s tough to deal with. You’re seeing his confidence growing by the game. He can pretty much do everything on the basketball court. He’s such a versatile player. I think you’ll see him be more of an impact player as time goes on.”
Orlando faces an uphill battle against Milwaukee and its deep roster, which features 13 players averaging at least 11.4 minutes per game.
Middleton is easing back into action after the three-time All-Star missed nearly eight months due to knee and wrist injuries. He had 17 points, two rebounds and seven assists in 27 minutes on Friday against the Lakers.
With Middleton out to begin the season, the Bucks’ defense remained near the top of the league’s rankings with center Brook Lopez playing a key role. Now in his 15th season, Lopez has 66 blocks in 22 games.
“I feel like he’s just having a defensive player of the year-type season,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said. “It is only a quarter of the way — we’ve got to keep doing it, he’s got to keep doing it. But he’s been fantastic.”
–Field Level Media