The Milwaukee Bucks were missing seven players when they hosted the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, including stars Khris Middleton, who hyperextended his left knee during a game earlier in the week, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, who landed in the league's health and safety protocols the night prior.
In their absence, the Bucks leaned on Jrue Holiday and had a 21-0 fourth-quarter run to beat the Pacers 114-99. Holiday finished with 26 points and 14 assists.
Middleton warmed up on the court prior to Wednesday's game, and despite missing this game, the team remained optimistic he could make a quick return later this week. He received an MRI after hyperextending his knee during Monday's game against the Boston Celtics, but the Bucks received encouraging results from the imaging.
"I think we consider everything very fortunate," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said before the game. "This should be very minimal and short. We'll see how he feels [Thursday] and going into the game Friday, I think we'll be hopeful."
Antetokounmpo was one of three Bucks players, including Wes Matthews and Donte DiVincenzo, to land in the NBA's health and safety protocols, continuing a trend shared by several teams around the league managing team outbreaks.
A player must be out for a minimum of 10 days or return two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart to clear protocols
"We'll follow all the guidelines that the league has laid out," Budenholzer said. "Hope he's just healthy and taking care of himself."
After starting the season 6-8 with their roster depleted by injuries, the Bucks stormed back to go 13-3 over their past 16 games and put themselves back near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Milwaukee now finds itself short-handed again. Centers DeMarcus Cousins (personal reasons), Brook Lopez (back surgery) and forward Semi Ojeleye (calf strain) were also sidelined Wednesday. DiVincenzo was set to play in his first game since he suffered an ankle injury in May during the first round of the playoffs.
However, Antetokounmpo had been a near constant for the Bucks this season, playing in all but three games and at his usual excellent level.
In 26 games, he is averaging 27.0 points, 11.6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game with 1.6 blocks.
"We actually have started doing some things a little bit differently even prior to the positives that have come the last few days," Budenholzer said. "Maybe just continue to advance or heighten that type of stuff to try and keep everybody safe. Players, staff, just do the best we can."