Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as questionable for Game 1 against the Pacers


INDIANAPOLIS – Two-time MVP and Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed as doubtful for Game 1 of the No. 3 seed Bucks’ NBA Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the No. 6 seed Pacers on Sunday at 7 p.m. Fiserv Forum of Milwaukee.

Antetokounmpo suffered a strained left soleus, a calf muscle, during the Bucks’ win over the Celtics on April 9 and missed the final three games of the regular season. It has been reported that the Bucks expect him to miss the first part of the series, but expect him to return later. For television purposes, the first round of the playoffs is relatively long. Game 7 of the best-of-seven series is scheduled for May 4.

Antetokounmpo has an outside chance at a third MVP award this year and will most likely make the All-NBA first team, which would put him on an All-NBA team for the eighth time. He averaged 30.4 points on 61.1% shooting this season, along with 11.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists. He was particularly dominant against the Pacers, averaging 42.2 points per game in their five appearances, including a 64 and 54 point performance, although the Pacers won four of the five games in the series.

The Pacers have worked all week to be prepared for the Bucks, whether Antetokounmpo is available or not.

“Obviously he’s one of the best players in the world,” Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton said after practice on Saturday. “I think you have to prepare the right way. Because I think if you prepare like he’s not going to play, and then he plays, it’s probably harder to adapt. I would say we prepare for which would be the hardest for us. Obviously with Giannis on the floor… We went through every set while he was playing versus while he wasn’t playing. Who knows what could happen over the course of a series of the greatest athletes in the world, if he played tomorrow I wouldn’t be surprised at all.”

As great as Antetokounmpo is, they know the Bucks will still struggle without him, in part because Bobby Portis would start in his place and Portis made a good case for Sixth Man of the Year honors. The 6-10 forward averaged 13.8 points and 7.4 rebounds off the bench this season and shot 38.1% from the floor.

“The game where they beat us in Milwaukee, I think he really had an impact on the game,” Haliburton said. “Just his presence on the floor, scoring the ball, his tenacity, what he does defensively. Obviously, I got to play with him this summer on Team USA. I love the guy, I love the way he competes. I think that’s what he brings to the table that’s hard to match.”

The Pacers have a clean injury report, except for guard Bennedict Mathurin, who has been out for the season since surgery to repair a torn labrum in early March.