With Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mavericks star Luka Doncic both sidelined due to health and safety protocols, Milwaukee will visit Dallas on Thursday.
Doncic and Trey Burke were added to the Mavericks’ list of players under protocols on Wednesday, joining Reggie Bullock, Josh Green, Tim Hardaway and Maxi Kleber.
Willie Cauley-Stein, who hasn’t played since Nov. 27, remains out for personal reasons. In addition, Kristaps Porzingis sat out Tuesday and is day-to-day due to a toe injury.
Jalen Brunson shouldered the scoring load for the makeshift Mavericks lineup on Tuesday in a 114-102 win over the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves, finishing with 28 points. Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith, who scored 19 points, both played more than 40 minutes.
The stalwart duo led the way while COVID-19 replacement signees Marquese Chriss and Theo Pinson added valuable contributions off the bench. Pinson scored seven points and made four steals, while Chriss finished with six points and eight rebounds.
“They helped us win this game,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “We’re going to need that from here on out because you just don’t know who’s going to test positive and who’s out.”
Milwaukee placed Antetokounmpo, a two-time Most Valuable Player, as well as Donte DiVincenzo in protocols on Dec. 14. Bobby Portis joined them there two days later.
The reigning NBA champion Bucks dropped their first two games without Antetokounmpo, 116-112 in overtime at New Orleans on Friday, then 119-90 against visiting Cleveland on Saturday.
The Bucks bounced back on Wednesday with a 126-106 rout of the visiting Houston Rockets. Jrue Holiday scored 24 points and dished 10 assists in the win, and Khris Middleton notched 23 points and six assists in his return from a three-game absence caused by a knee injury.
“Of course I wanted to play (through the ailment), I wanted to compete, but I think (coach Mike Budenholzer) talked with the medical staff,” Middleton said. “The best thing was for me to sit out those games just to make sure my knee and my leg was 100 percent to get back on the court.”
Milwaukee’s Wesley Matthews made his return to the lineup from health and safety protocols on Wednesday and scored a season-best 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting off the bench.
DeMarcus Cousins, who was signed by the Bucks to a non-guaranteed contract on Nov. 30, finished with 18 points and eight rebounds in the Wednesday win. It was his highest-scoring performance since joining the lineup on Dec. 1, and it came one game after Cousins put up a season-best 12 rebounds against Cleveland.
With Wednesday’s game marking the first half of a back-to-back, Budenholzer acknowledged in his postgame press conference he opted to rest Grayson Allen.
“We can use him,” Budenholzer said. “He’s still just not quite feeling 100 percent (due to a non-COVID illness). With the back-to-back, see if we can get through (Wednesday) without him and hopefully be able to play and get some minutes and some production out of him (Thursday).”
Milwaukee’s Semi Ojeleye was limited to fewer than 17 minutes on Wednesday in his second game back from a 15-game absence caused by a calf injury.
–Field Level Media