Ailing Bucks see Lillard aggravate Achilles injury

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INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries are beginning to pile up for the Milwaukee Bucks, presenting them with a new hurdle as they try to rally from a 2-1 deficit in their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers.

Milwaukee has already been playing without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, sidelined with a calf strain. Khris Middleton was listed as questionable entering Friday’s Game 3 before scoring 42 points in 41 minutes. And near the end of the fourth quarter, Damian Lillard aggravated an Achilles injury that he said hindered him during overtime.

“We are just taking a lot of hits right now as far as injury-wise,” Bucks coach Doc Rivers said after his team’s 121-118 loss in overtime.

Lillard finished with 28 points on 6-of-20 shooting in 45 minutes, but he did not take a shot and went scoreless in overtime. He told Rivers he wanted to stay on the floor to serve as a decoy for Middleton, who hit tying 3-pointers with 2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and again with 8 seconds left in overtime.

“I just wanted to be on the floor in case opportunity came up or however I could help,” said Lillard, who revealed that one of his Achilles had been sore following the Bucks’ regular-season finale in Orlando. “We’re gonna get back and just have to get ahead of it because that’s not something that you want to play with. It’s one of those spots on your body where you literally can’t, you can’t do nothing about it. If you can’t move you can’t move. We have a couple of days to start and try to get ahead of it. Get it feeling better and get ready for Sunday.”

Game 4 is Sunday night in Indianapolis.

The Bucks were unsure about Middleton’s status leading into the game after he twisted his right ankle in Game 2 on Tuesday. Once Middleton went through his pregame routine and felt like he could push off and change directions, he felt good enough to play.

In the first quarter, Lillard gave the Bucks a scare. Pacers forward Pascal Siakam landed on Lillard’s heel during a layup attempt, which Lillard said caused him to twist his left knee. He was down for several moments on the floor before he went to the locker room and eventually returned to the game.

“When I went out there, I knew it was gonna be a little uncomfortable but I didn’t feel like I was putting myself in danger,” Lillard said.

The Bucks rallied from a 19-point deficit in the first half to take a fourth-quarter lead on back-to-back 3-pointers from Lillard. But the Pacers rallied in overtime to win on a basket by Tyrese Haliburton.

“We just gotta try and get the next one,” Lillard said. “Once you do that, then it becomes a new series again, and then after that it continues to change every game. We just gotta turn the page and focus on getting one before we get out of here.”

Even though they are trailing in the series, the Bucks are not going to rush Antetokounmpo back while he recovers from a left calf strain that kept him out of the final three regular-season contests and the start of this series.

Rivers said Friday that Antetokounmpo would only return to practice when he’s healthy, and the Bucks’ results would not influence his status.

“We’re not going to rush anybody back,” Rivers said. “It’s too dangerous to do that.”

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