CLEVELAND — The Bucks are staggering to the finish line of a special regular season.
Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss his second straight game with a sprained right ankle on Wednesday night, one of several key injuries to hit the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks in recent days.
A leading MVP contender, Antetokounmpo will rest against the Cavaliers as the Bucks, who enter with the NBA’s best record, try to clinch their first Central Division title since 2001.
Antetokounmpo also sat Tuesday night when the Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, who played without LeBron James and deprived fans of a matchup of two of the game’s biggest names.
“He’s making progress,” coach Mike Budenholzer said of Antetokounmpo. “He just can’t go tonight. It’s us hopefully being smart and being somewhat cautious, but it’s more than that. He can’t play. We’ll see how the next 24 to 48 hours go, and I’m hopeful he’ll be in a good place as we move forward.”
The Bucks host Miami on Friday.
Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.5 points, 12.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists, and his mere presence on the floor makes the Bucks a more dangerous team.
In the past few days, the Bucks have been rocked by injuries to starting guard Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fascia tear) and forward Nikola Mirotic (sprained thumb).
Milwaukee will also be without backup center Pau Gasol (ankle), guard Sterling Brown (wrist), guard Donte DiVincenzo (heel) and guard George Hill (groin).
Brogdon is out indefinitely while the Bucks did not provide a timeline on Mirotic’s return.
“These things can always change,” Budenholzer said, downplaying a report Mirotic could miss one month “In a perfect world they’re less. Sometimes they take longer. This is a little bit of a unique injury. Obviously we’re hopeful for shorter.”
Since being acquired by Milwaukee on Feb. 7, Mirotic has played in 14 games with three starts. He’s averaging 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 22.9 minutes.
The wave of injuries will test Milwaukee’s depth just as the team builds for the playoffs.
“Certainly there’s no good time to have them, but we feel good about our depth,” Budenholzer said. “As long as guys can return in a timely way, which we’re hopeful of, getting some time without games, not pounding on your body, may be a silver lining.”