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Giannis sits out Nets matchup to rest sore calf

MILWAUKEE — With home-court advantage throughout the playoffs already clinched, the Milwaukee Bucks have turned their attention toward managing their players’ health in preparation for the postseason.

In that spirit, Giannis Antetokounmpo will not play against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday due to a sore left calf.

Coach Mike Budenholzer said his star player was “kicked or hit” in the calf during the Bucks’ win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

“He felt it yesterday and was still feeling it a little bit today,” Budenholzer said. “I wouldn’t term it resting.”

Saturday will be the ninth game Antetokounmpo has missed this season.

The MVP hopeful has made it clear he despises sitting out games, but Budenholzer said that over the course of the season, his star player has become more understanding of the need to sit out some games or play fewer minutes in order to remain fresh for what the NBA-best Bucks (59-20) hope is a deep playoff push.

“There has been a significant amount of success and winning that has helped him be less difficult,” Budenholzer said. “I have flashbacks to the first couple games, he was upset every time I took him out of the game. When I think about that to where we are today, it has been great.”

Antetokounmpo was joking with teammates and icing his feet and ankles before Saturday’s game. He went through his normal pregame warm-up routine and did not appear to be limping or favoring either leg.

Budenholzer said Khris Middleton, who only played 25 minutes against the Sixers, will again play limited minutes against Brooklyn. He had been dealing with groin soreness.

The Bucks are already without Nikola Mirotic (fractured finger), Malcolm Brogdon (plantar fascia tear) and Tony Snell (ankle sprain). Against Philadelphia, Ersan Ilyasova fractured his nose for the second time this season, but he will be available to face the Nets, Budenholzer said.

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