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Bucks open their playoff run without Giannis Antetokounmpo because of left calf strain

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks started the playoffs Sunday without Giannis Antetokounmpo due to the left calf strain that knocked the two-time MVP out for the Bucks’ final three regular-season games.

Bucks coach Doc Rivers said Antetokounmpo was out for Game 1 of the Bucks’ Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. Antetokounmpo had been listed as doubtful for Sunday night’s game.

Rivers said Antetokounmpo “looks better, for sure,” but the coach didn’t offer any clarity on when Antetokounmpo might be available to play. Game 2 is Tuesday in Milwaukee.

“We prepare with what’s on the floor,” Rivers said. “Giannis has done a lot of work. He’s shooting. He’s running again. He looks good. But he hasn’t been able to participate, so we really prepared this week with what we have.”

The two-time MVP averaged 42.2 points, 13 rebounds and 5.4 assists against the Pacers this season, and he scored a franchise-record 64 points in Milwaukee’s lone victory over Indiana.

Antetokounmpo was struggling to run up the court in the third quarter of an April 9 victory over the Boston Celtics when he grabbed his left calf and took a seat on the floor. Antetokounmpo eventually headed to the locker room, and an MRI revealed the muscle strain.

The Bucks went 4-5 in the games Antetokounmpo missed during the regular season. That included losses in their final two games, which dropped them from second to third in the Eastern Conference.

Milwaukee has grown accustomed to playing without its stars this season. The Bucks had their top three players — Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton — all available for only five of their last 33 games.

Antetokounmpo ranked second in the NBA in scoring (30.4), sixth in rebounding (11.5) and 14th in assists (6.5) this season. He became the first player in league history to average over 30 points per game while shooting at least 60% from the floor.

Antetokounmpo has played through injuries in the postseason before.

He missed the final 1 1/2 games of a 2020 second-round loss to Miami with a sprained ankle. He sat out the final two games of the 2021 Eastern Conference finals with a hyperextended knee, but he returned to lead the Bucks to their first championship since 1971 and was named Finals MVP after scoring 50 points in a title-clinching Game 6 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Last year, a bruised lower back knocked Antetokounmpo out of Game 1 and caused him to miss the next two games in the Bucks’ first-round loss to Miami.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA

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