Giannis’ ankle issue again enters picture for Bucks

MILWUAKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s troublesome right ankle is acting up again.

With just under eight minutes left in the Bucks on Thursday night game against the Clippers, Antetokounmpo threw down a dunk that gave the Bucks a 108-91 lead. As he retreated, Antetokounmpo collided with Garrett Temple and fell down clutching his right ankle.

The Bucks went on to defeat the Clippers 128-118. Antetokounmpo finished with 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists in 32 minutes of playing time. He did not return to the game, instead sitting on the bench and occasionally standing to gingerly walk the sidelines and test his ankle.

After the game, Antetokounmpo said he felt “good” but was walking around the locker room with a significant limp. He seemed to be in good spirits, though, joking with teammates and rapping loudly to Greek music that played over the loud speaker.

Antetokounmpo missed two games last week against the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers after spraining the right ankle on March 17 the 76ers. Antetokounmpo said that he felt he never fully recovered from the initial sprain against Philadelphia.

“Usually when you sprain your ankle, you tweak your ankle, you stay out for two, three, four games,” Antetokounmpo said. “But I don’t like missing games, so I have to work through it while playing and try to get my strength with our practices.”

It appeared that the Bucks briefly considered having Antetokounmpo return to the game against L.A.

The Clippers went on a 7-0 run after Antetokounmpo went to the bench. With the Bucks leading by 10 and just under five minutes left in the game, the Greek Freak got up and walked to the scorer’s table. Soon after, Brook Lopez splashed in a three, pushing the Bucks’ lead back up to 13 and prompting a Clippers timeout. Coach

Mike Budenholzer seemed to be comfortable enough with that point margin and Antetokounmpo sat back down.

“I just thought we would put him back in,” Budenholzer said. “I thought better of it after a couple plays.”

The Bucks have been riddled with injuries in recent weeks. The team is without Nikola Mirotic (thumb), Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fasciitis) and Pau Gasol (foot). On Tuesday, the team decided to shut down rookie Donte DiVincenzo, who has been dealing with ongoing heel injury.

Managing Antetokounmpo’s health — specifically his knees and ankles — has been a focus for the Bucks all season. Last year, he played heavy minutes under former coach Jason Kidd, and it took a toll on his body. The Bucks current coaching staff has been careful not to overload the MVP-candidate.

“I think the coaching staff, Bud and the medical staff have done a great job knowing when to pull me away from a game,” Antetokoumpo said. “I trust them. It doesn’t matter if I am going through pain or I don’t feel good. I am always prepared to play the game. There are going to be some days I am going to play with pain. There’s going to be a lot of days I’m stubborn and saying I want to go play but coach Bud is like, ‘no, you are not going to play.'”

The Bucks are holding an “individual day” on Friday where players are free to come into the gym and work out one-on-one or in small groups. On Saturday, the team travels to Atlanta. That schedule gives Antetokounmpo at least two days to get treatment without having to worry about games.

“We have six games left, but the thing that is most important for this team is to stay healthy,” Antetokounmpo said. “And get the guys that have been out — get them back and help them get back into the rhythm and prepare for the playoffs. For this group, the main focus is health and as long as we stay healthy, we are going to be fine.”

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