By any other name, Khris Middleton's game has been sweet

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BOSTON -- Khris Middleton couldn't believe what he was hearing.

The 26-year-old swingman is used to living his NBA life in the shadows after six seasons in the league -- five with the Milwaukee Bucks and his superstar teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo -- but this was different. Prior to Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, a Boston reporter repeatedly called Middleton "Jabari," in reference to Middleton's teammate Jabari Parker, asking Middleton a question as if he were Parker about his minutes after two subpar games to start the series.

"At first it threw me off," Middleton said. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I hear him saying, 'Jabari, what about your comments?' And that's why I really didn't know what to say at first, so I kept going to a different question. Then it finally clicked that he really thought I was Jabari afterward. A couple people let me know, too. So I didn't know what the hell was going on really, man."

As the Bucks get set for their most important game of the season Thursday, down 3-2 to a young Celtics team and facing the possibility of playing the last game at the Bradley Center, Middleton can look back on the incident and laugh, knowing he's making a name for himself this postseason. He is averaging 23.1 points on 57 percent shooting through the first five games.

Middleton, who, unlike Parker, performed well in his 84 combined minutes in the Bucks' two losses to start the series, made a mental note about the confusing shootaround exchange. He was ready when the reporter -- this time referencing Middleton by his correct name -- asked another question after the Bucks' Game 3 win. In a moment that quickly went viral, Middleton, seated alongside Antetokounmpo at the podium, made light of the misstep.


Middleton calls out reporter who mistook him for Parker

Khris Middleton calls out a reporter who previously mistook him for Jabari Parker, then gives his take on Parker's performance.

"I saw his face when he kept asking me the question [at shootaround]," Middleton said. "And then after the game, I remembered it was him. And then he tried to lie to me about it, but I don't know why he tried to lie to me about it. It wasn't like we couldn't figure out who it was again."

Middleton admits that his friends have had a really good time with the mistaken identity.

"The training staff, the players cracked a few jokes," Middleton said. "Friends and family, the same thing. Now the running joke is around with my friends, they keep calling me Jabari right now, which is a little annoying, but at least it's one of my own teammates and a good guy. So I'm not too mad about that."

There isn't much that seems to be rattling Middleton these days. He is averaging a robust 1.238 points per possession this postseason, according to Synergy Sports data, a number that ranks him No. 1 in the NBA among the 16 players with at least 100 possessions, ahead of All-Stars Anthony Davis (second, 1.179), Antetokounmpo (third, 1.144), LeBron James (fifth, 1.111) and even MVP favorite James Harden (tied for seventh with Kevin Durant, 1.052).

"Khris is playing great," Antetokounmpo said. "It's great having a guy next to you that plays that well in this series. If I'm not going, if [Eric] Bledsoe is not getting his rhythm, we'll always have Khris."

While 40-year-old Jason Terry serves as the sage veteran presence for this group at times, it's Middleton who has served as a calming influence for the rest of the young team. He has been the most dependable player on either team throughout this series. Entering Wednesday night's playoff slate, Middleton was tied for the highest 3-point field goal percentage in the playoffs, among players to take at least 10 3-pointers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He is shooting 18-for-30 from beyond the arc -- good for 60 percent. His recent play is even more impressive when considering he shot just 35.9 percent from beyond the arc in the regular season.

"He's a killer," Celtics swingman Jaylen Brown said of Middleton. "He's made some extremely tough shots, and he's comfortable making them. We kinda made it a little bit uncomfortable for him, and he's worked for the baskets he's got. And we gotta continue to make it more uncomfortable for him. ... He's a really good player. He's a straight killer, and he's experienced. He can really shoot the ball and make tough shots. We gotta really make it hard for him and keep making him uncomfortable. Hopefully we can wear him down."

Despite all the hype surrounding his play, Middleton isn't letting any of it change the way he approaches the game.

"Honestly, I'm trying not to pay too much attention to it," he said. "All those things, they're good, but they could be distractions at the same time. So for me, it's just staying in that same mind state of staying hungry and wanting to win."

As for the accidental slights from reporters, Middleton is trying to take it all in stride -- if only his friends would let him.

"That's not the first time it's happened," Middleton said of being mistaken for somebody else. "But at this time in the year, when we've already played two games, you would think he would know who certain players -- who all the players -- are, actually. He would do his research and homework on it."

With the way Middleton has played in this series, his game and his presence aren't going to live in anonymity much longer.

ESPN.com's Chris Forsberg contributed to this story.