Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out of Game 5 of Milwaukee’s Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Miami Heat because of a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks listed Antetokounmpo as inactive, doing so about 45 minutes before Tuesday’s matchup started. They entered the game trailing the best-of-seven series 3-1.
Antetokounmpo clearly tried to get himself ready for Game 5. He was on the court about two hours before game time, getting some shots up, then did more strength and flexibility work with a member of the Bucks’ staff. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer watched the on-court session closely, before the team made the final decision.
Antetokounmpo sprained the ankle in the first quarter of Game 3, then played his usual minutes the rest of the way. He turned the same ankle the same way — inward — early in the second quarter of Game 4 and could not return.
The Bucks lost Game 3 with Antetokounmpo, then found a way to win Game 4 in overtime even after playing the final 40 of the game’s 53 minutes without their leading scorer and rebounder.
Antetokounmpo had started all 43 of Milwaukee’s post-season games since he joined the franchise as the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA draft. The last time the Bucks played a playoff contest without Antetokounmpo was April 28, 2013 — when they were swept out of the first round by the Heat.
‘You have to protect him’
Antetokounmpo got plenty of treatment between games, but Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer indicated Monday — while acknowledging that there was still hope that the MVP would play in Game 5 — that the team would weigh the short-term benefit of him playing Tuesday against the long-term risk.
“We have such a great sports and performance staff and just a high, high level of trust that they understand the big picture,” Budenholzer said. “They’ve been a part of all the decisions in the past and obviously going forward, and the trust level with them, the communication between them and Giannis … sometimes you have to protect him.”
But in the first three games of the series against the Heat, his offensive numbers cooled off considerably. He averaged 22.7 points, 13.3 rebounds and seven assists — shooting only 45 per cent from the field and 15 per cent from beyond the 3-point arc. He had 19 points in 11 minutes in Game 4, helping Milwaukee stay in the game early.
Antetokounmpo is obviously a huge part of Milwaukee’s plans going forward.
It was almost exactly a year ago — Sept. 12, 2019 — when the Bucks held a preseason Town Hall meeting for fans, and one of them asked the panel that included Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst what the situation was with Antetokounmpo’s long-term contract.
“Of course, he’ll be offered a supermax extension,” Horst said.
The Bucks can make that move when free agency begins, possibly as early as mid-October.
Such a deal would kick in for the 2021-22 season, and the mathematics before the pandemic hit said it would have been worth around $247 million US. If the salary cap going forward takes a hit because of the amount of revenue the league and its teams lost this season, so would the total value of Antetokounmpo’s next deal — though, by any measure, he’ll be set for life.
He’s under contract for $27.5 million next season.