Giannis avoids Achilles injury, but calf strain looms for Bucks as playoffs near

MILWAUKEE — Things were looking good for the Milwaukee Bucks until 3:40 remained in the third quarter of Tuesday's game against the Boston Celtics. In the midst of a four-game losing streak, the Bucks are up 15 points on the NBA's only 60-win team.

Then disaster struck.

Without making contact with another player, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo crumpled to the ground and immediately grabbed the lower half of his left leg.

After sitting briefly with teammates and a trainer around him, Antetokounmpo put weight on his leg and then put an arm around the shoulders of teammates Brook Lopez and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. Eventually, Antetokounmpo walked back to the Bucs locker room under his own power.

The Bucks announced Tuesday night that Antetokounmpo strained his left soleus, which is the calf muscle. But Antetokounmpo managed to avoid damage to his left Achilles tendon — an outstanding outcome — and his return will depend on treatment and the rehab response to the strained calf, league sources said. AthleticShams Saranya on Wednesday morning.

The injury cast a cloud over Milwaukee's 104-91 win over Boston.

Bucks point guard Damian Lillard brought the ball up and was the closest player to Antetokounmpo.

“Anytime you see one of your teammates go down, it's a real concern,” Lillard said. “We spend a lot of time around each other, we spend more than our family, so I think that's the first thing. At this point in the season, to be your best player, to be a very important part of our team, it was like an “oh s—” moment. Especially since no one else is.

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“I was right next to him. So I saw, like, his facial expression, the reaction. So, obviously, I was scared. I knew we were going to call a timeout, so I jumped up to half court and when he stood up, he wanted to try to weigh it. I could tell. And I saw him put some weight on him, and it was like, his reaction almost made him back off. But he put the weight on, so I was like, 'Okay. This looks stronger than I thought.'

“To see that he can even walk on his own, I think that showed me a lot. And frankly, it's encouraging to see. Now you just want him to be healthy.

Rivers agreed with Lillard that there is real concern about Antetokounmpo's health moving forward, especially with the NBA playoffs starting on April 20.

“A lot, I would say that,” Rivers said of his level of concern. “But he's Giannis. I think everyone probably feels the same way I feel right now. We're just going to hope for the best.”

With Tuesday's win, Milwaukee moved to 48-31 on the season. With three regular season games remaining, the Bucks are one game ahead of the New York Knicks in second place in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks hold the tiebreaker over the Knicks, but there are more concerns in the standings.

The Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers are two games up for the Bucks. The Cleveland Cavaliers own the division record tiebreaker over the Bucks, but have now lost three straight games and have won just three of their last 10 games. On the other hand, the tiebreaker is up in the air against the Magic, who face the Bucks twice in the final three regular-season games — first Wednesday night in Milwaukee and then Sunday in Orlando for both in the regular-season finale. Teams.

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In between meetings with the Magic, the Bucks face the Thunder, who they beat on March 24 in Oklahoma City. This season, the Bucs are 3-3 in games Antetokounmpo doesn't play.

The soleus is one of the two muscles that make up the calf, so teams will often refer to soleus strains as the most common calf strain, but there are cases where teams have specific cases where a player has suffered a soleus strain. One of those instances happened with Lillard last season, when he was a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.

“It hurts,” Lillard said in response to a question Athletic That's how I felt when I suffered the same injury in the first month of the 2022-23 season. “It hurt. … When I did that, I was able to do things normally. I feel like I had a higher pain tolerance, and when I did that, I started walking, and not only was it painful, but the muscle couldn't handle it.

“So, once it calms down, I think you find a way to wrap your head around it, but it's a weird feeling. But hearing it, I know, I know that feeling. As someone who's been through it — if that's what it is — it's also inspiring.

As for Lillard, his soleus injury was actually a calf strain in the same leg that put him out for the season. Lillard was first listed on injury report on November 6, 2022, but played through the injury until he suffered a soleus strain a few weeks later.

“When I did that, I strained my calf, and then I came back, eight or nine days later, I came back from the calf,” Lillard said. “And then … I had a soleus injury right after I came back. I think it was like a game or two after I came back and I did my soleus. It took two weeks after that. For me, it was like two weeks, and then I came back and played.

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Lillard was first listed on Portland's injury report on Nov. 20, 2022, and the Trail Blazers traded with the Indiana Pacers on Dec. He did not play again until playing on 4, about 14 days after the initial diagnosis.

The playoffs are 10 days away, so Antetokounmpo's timeline will depend entirely on the severity of the soleus strain, but Wednesday's report that Antetokounmpo has avoided injuring his Achilles is welcome news for the Bucks.

(Photo by Giannis Antetokoumpo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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