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Offseason | NBA Week 26

Bucks hitting stride with Clippers looming

Mon Mar 4 1:36am ET
Field Level Media


Heading into last month's All-Star break, the Milwaukee Bucks were lost.

They had dropped seven of 10 games under recently hired coach Doc Rivers, who was already questioning his new team's mental toughness.

"We had some guys here, we had some guys in Cabo," Rivers said after a loss to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 15.

Nearly three weeks later, and the Bucks have strung together five straight wins heading into Monday's meeting with the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.

Keying Milwaukee's surge has been star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 31.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game since the All-Star break.

Most recently, Antetokounmpo tallied 46 points, 16 boards and six assists in Friday's 113-97 win against the Chicago Bulls while passing Sidney Moncrief as the all-time winningest player in franchise history with 489 victories.

"It's fun. It's something that I can tell my kids," Antetokounmpo said. "I have been blessed with incredible teammates and an incredible coaching staff that allow me to do what I do. ... Right now, we're trusting each other. We're rolling, we're feeling good."

With 21 games left in the regular season for the Bucks, each outing will be imperative for their playoff seeding. Currently, they sit a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed.

Antetokounmpo leads Milwaukee in scoring (30.8 points per game) and rebounds (11.3 per game), while Damian Lillard paces the team with 6.8 assists per contest.

Standing in the way of a sixth straight win are the Clippers, who look to extend a winning streak of their own.

Los Angeles won its second game in as many tries on Sunday, when it topped the Minnesota Timberwolves in a defensive slugfest, 89-88. Despite a season low in points and field-goal percentage (37.6), the Clippers overcame an early 16-point deficit en route to the one-point win.

"We got some good shots, we just couldn't make them," Los Angeles coach Tyronn Lue said. "That's part of the game, but I loved the way we stayed resilient, I loved the way we kept playing defense. We kept competing and guarding. No transition points (Sunday), which was good."

The Clippers' leading scorer on the season, Kawhi Leonard (24.2 ppg), was an offensive bright spot on Sunday, pouring in a game-high 32 points. Norman Powell was a spark plug off the bench for Los Angeles, adding 24 points on 6-for-8 shooting from 3-point range.

"Our bench came in and gave us great energy," Lue said. "I thought Norman came in and made some huge shots to get us going offensively. (Kawhi) was really good. I thought defensively he did some good things. And then offensively, getting to his spots. He did miss some shots he normally makes, but he's been great for us all year."

Like Milwaukee in the East, the Clippers are jockeying for position in the jam-packed Western Conference. Entering Monday fourth in the standings, Los Angeles sits just two games behind both Minnesota and the Denver Nuggets, while the Oklahoma City Thunder are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Clippers for the top spot.

Player Notes
Brandon Ingram Thu Apr 18 11:00pm

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (knee) remains off the injury report ahead of Friday's matchup with the Sacramento Kings. The 26-year-old recently returned from a lengthy stint on the shelf because of a knee injury. But he's been limited, combining for 44 minutes in the last two games. However, according to head coach Willie Green, Ingram "had a great practice" on Thursday. With that said, Zion Williamson (hamstring) won't suit up, so the team will need Ingram on the floor. Yet, he'll remain a risky DFS option until his workload increases, which may not be anytime soon.

Zach Collins Thu Apr 18 9:00pm

According to NBA insider Michael Scotto, San Antonio Spurs forward/center Zach Collins (shoulder) will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Collins is no stranger to surgical procedures. However, it's a tough blow, considering the 26-year-old has appeared in at least 63 games in each of the last two seasons. Fortunately, he's expected to be ready to go for the 2024-25 campaign. Collins remained productive last season despite the arrival of Victor Wembanyama, averaging 11.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. He should continue to hold a spot in the rotation and get some starts when the new season begins in October, so he should have value for those in deeper fantasy formats.

Duncan Robinson Thu Apr 18 8:40pm

Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (back) is probable for Friday's meeting with the Chicago Bulls. The sharpshooter missed time to close the regular season but returned for Wednesday's Play-In loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he didn't see any action in that one. With that in mind, the Heat won't have Terry Rozier (neck) or Jimmy Butler (knee) against the Bulls, so Robinson may need to get involved. But If he doesn't see the floor, Delon Wright, Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Nikola Jovic could get more involved on the scoring end.

Terry Rozier Thu Apr 18 8:30pm

Miami Heat guard Terry Rozier (neck) won't play on Friday night versus the Bulls. The former Hornet has played well since getting traded to the Heat. However, he missed time to end the regular season and sat out Wednesday's one-point Play-In loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. As a result, Tyler Herro remained the primary ball handler, finishing with 25 points and nine assists. However, he had five turnovers and had trouble shooting the ball, going 9-for-27 from the field and 4-for-14 from deep. Nonetheless, with Rozier and Jimmy Butler (knee) out, Herro is a lock for DFS contests. In addition, Delon Wright, who had six points, six rebounds, two steals, and one block against the Sixers, remains a viable DFS value option.

Jimmy Butler Thu Apr 18 8:20pm

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (knee) was diagnosed with a sprained MCL. Butler amassed 19 points, five assists, and five steals in Wednesday's one-point loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. However, he injured his knee during the contest. As a result, Butler will be sidelined for at least a few weeks, which isn't an ideal scenario for the Heat if they manage to pull off the win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday. Nonetheless, Miami also won't have Terry Rozier (neck), meaning Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo could take over as the team's top scorers. There's also room for Duncan Robinson (back), Jaime Jaquez Jr., and Nikola Jovic to see a significant increase in DFS production.

Andre Drummond Thu Apr 18 8:10pm

Chicago Bulls center Andre Drummond (ankle) is questionable for Friday's Play-In meeting with the Miami Heat. Drummond sprained his ankle near the end of the regular season and missed some games. However, he returned for Wednesday's win over the Atlanta Hawks. But the veteran logged only 11 minutes, ending the night with four points, three rebounds, three blocks, and one steal. Nonetheless, Drummond should be on the floor for Friday's pivotal contest. While the ailment makes him a risky DFS option, he'll still have some value for the limited two-game slate. Yet, if Drummond can't play, the Bulls may need to go small, opening the door for Torrey Craig to get more involved.

Ayo Dosunmu Thu Apr 18 8:00pm

Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu (quadriceps) is considered questionable for Friday's matchup with the Heat. He missed the last four games of the regular season because of a right quad injury. Fortunately, he returned for Wednesday's Play-In win over the Atlanta Hawks, logging 41 minutes and scoring 19 points. Nonetheless, it would be surprising if Dosunmu isn't on the floor on Friday evening. But if he's unavailable, Alex Caruso (ankle), who is questionable, and Javonte Green would be the favorites to absorb the surplus minutes.

Alex Caruso Thu Apr 18 7:50pm

Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso (ankle) is questionable for Friday's Play-In battle with the Miami Heat. The 30-year-old suffered a "significant" left ankle sprain in Wednesday's win over the Atlanta Hawks, with ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that his status versus the Heat is in doubt. Caruso plays a pivotal role in Chicago's rotation, averaging 10.1 points and 1.7 steals during the regular season. Fortunately, it appears he's doing a little better than he was. But Caruso will have some hurdles to clear before he gets the green light to suit up. However, if he's not on the floor, Javonte Green will immediately see a substantial increase in fantasy potential.

Andrew Wiggins Thu Apr 18 10:10am

Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins could be heading toward the exit this summer. The Ringer reports that league sources believe Wiggins will be included in trade talks in the offseason as the Warriors look to improve their roster following a disappointing campaign. Golden State's season ended on Tuesday when the team suffered a blowout loss in the play-in tournament against Sacramento. Wiggins has spent four and a half seasons with the Warriors, winning the NBA championship in 2022. However, he had a rough campaign in 2023-24, and a divorce might be mutually beneficial. Wiggins is coming off the first season of a four-year, $109 million contract.

Damian Lillard Thu Apr 18 10:00am

Milwaukee Bucks point guard Damian Lillard (groin) was able to practice on Wednesday in a limited capacity and is expected to get a full session under his belt on Friday. Lillard is trying to get ready for Game 1 of the team's first-round series against Indiana, which starts on Sunday night. It's unlikely that we will see Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf) in the lineup at the weekend, and Lillard's unavailability would be another huge blow for Milwaukee. However, the star guard appears to be trending in the right direction. If he's cleared to play, we should see fireworks from Lillard, as he'll be expected to do a lot more without Antetokounmpo. Lillard averaged a big 34-point, 10-assist double-double during his last playoff campaign in 2021.

Kawhi Leonard Thu Apr 18 9:50am

Los Angeles Clippers guard/forward Kawhi Leonard (knee) hasn't yet been cleared for five-on-five practice, but head coach Tyronn Lue appears to be confident of having him in the lineup when playoff action starts this weekend. "I'm preparing to have him on the court," Lue said on Wednesday. "We just take it day-by-day. He's getting better and we'll see how much he continues to progress." Leonard missed the final eight regular-season games due to inflammation in his right knee. The Clippers start their first-round series against Dallas on Sunday. Leonard, a two-time Finals MVP, is known as a great post-season performer and has averaged at least 30 points in three of his last four playoff campaigns.

Sam Merrill Thu Apr 18 9:40am

Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Sam Merrill (neck) was a full participant in Wednesday's practice as he continues to work his way back from injury. A neck problem kept him out for the final three regular-season games, but Merrill looks to be on track to return to the lineup for Game 1 of the playoffs against Orlando on Saturday. The 27-year-old averaged a career-high 8.0 points in 17.5 minutes during the regular season, shooting 40.4 percent from downtown. Merrill's shooting ability makes him a good option to have on the bench, but the rotations get tighter during the postseason, and he likely won't see a lot of time on the court.

Dean Wade Thu Apr 18 9:30am

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dean Wade (knee) isn't expected to play in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs against Orlando on Saturday. He missed the end of the regular season, making his last appearance on March 8, and Wade wasn't in Wednesday's practice. Wade's absence means more minutes to Georges Niang and Marcus Morris Sr. off the Cavaliers bench. However, neither player doesn't carry any significant fantasy value as long as Evan Mobley stays healthy.

Alex Caruso Thu Apr 18 9:30am

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso suffered a "significant" left ankle sprain in Wednesday's play-in contest against Atlanta and is doubtful to play on Friday versus Miami. Caruso suffered the injury in the first quarter on Wednesday when he collided with teammate Andre Drummond. Following a visit to the locker room, Caruso was able to return to the court, but he didn't see any action since the 9:43 mark in the third quarter. The injury will likely bring Javonte Green into the starting unit on Friday. He was a late addition to the Bulls squad during the regular season but had a productive time with the team. In five starts, Green notched 14.0 points and 8.6 rebounds with 1.2 steals in 29.2 minutes.

Jimmy Butler Thu Apr 18 9:20am

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (knee) is feared to have suffered an MCL injury in Wednesday's 105-104 loss to Philadelphia in the play-in tournament. He was hurt near the end of the first quarter when Philadelphia's Kelly Oubre Jr. landed on Butler's right knee. The Heat star managed to complete the contest and logged a productive 40 minutes, but the injury could sideline Butler for an indefinite period. He's scheduled to have an MRI on the knee on Thursday. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Caleb Martin should carry a bigger load if Butler is forced to come out of the lineup for Friday's contest against Chicago. Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo will be asked to do more on the offensive end.

Donovan Mitchell Wed Apr 17 11:00pm

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (knee) stated he's "100 percent" heading toward the postseason. The multi-time All-Star has battled a knee injury, limiting him to 10 games since March 1. Fortunately, Mitchell reported he received platelet-rich plasma injections while being closely monitored by the team's medical staff, so he'll be ready to go. The Cavs begin the postseason series with the Magic on Saturday. While DFS managers will continue to be apprehensive about Mitchell's health, it appears the knee issue is behind him, at least for now.

Tyler Herro Wed Apr 17 10:20pm

Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro scored a game-high 25 points in Wednesday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. He added nine assists and two boards. With Terry Rozier (neck) unavailable, Herro was the team's primary ball handler. While he benefitted from a usage standpoint, he had five turnovers. Even worse, he didn't shoot the ball well, going 9-for-27 from the field and 4-for-14 from deep. It's anyone's guess how much longer Herro will be forced to operate at the one spot. But if Rozier isn't back on the floor for Friday's Play-In game between Chicago or Atlanta, Herro could continue to see an uptick in production. His ceiling could rise even higher if Jimmy Butler (knee) is limited after suffering an injury on Wednesday.

Jimmy Butler Wed Apr 17 10:10pm

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler had 19 points in Wednesday's Play-In loss to the 76ers. The veteran played well in this one, especially on the defensive end, ending the night with five steals. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, with Miami getting one more chance to advance into the playoffs. With that said, Butler took a hard fall in this one and was down on the court holding his right knee, so he'll likely appear on the injury report heading into Friday's matchup. However, barring a setback, he should be out there, although the ailment could limit his productivity.

Joel Embiid Wed Apr 17 10:10pm

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (knee) finished with 23 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists in Wednesday's Play-In win over the Heat. The reigning MVP carried a questionable tag heading into this one due to his infamous knee injury. But after practicing the last two days, he was available. Not only that, he logged 38 minutes. Without question, Embiid looked tired at times and also was observed grabbing his knee. However, it was a respectable showing for a guy who is nowhere near fully healthy. Fortunately, the Sixers will get a few days off before meeting the Knicks on Saturday to begin their series. Embiid will likely make another appearance on the injury report, although he should be good to go, barring a setback.

Duncan Robinson Wed Apr 17 7:10pm

Miami Heat guard Duncan Robinson (facet) will be active ahead of Wednesday's play-in game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Robinson will make his return to the rotation after missing each of the last four games. The Heat have said that Robinson won't have a minutes limit during this game. There was some questioning whether he'd replace Caleb Martin in the starting five. That won't be the case as Robinson will come off the bench during Wednesday's contest.