Bucks lead Nuggets 28-23 after first quarter

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The Milwaukee Bucks return to action Monday night against the Denver Nuggets after two days off, hosting the defending champions at 7 p.m.

The game marks two weeks to the date that Doc Rivers took over on the bench for Milwaukee (34-19), who lost to Denver (36-17) in the Mile High City on Jan. 29 in his debut.

Milwaukee took a 28-23 lead after one quarter on Denver. The Bucks jumped out to a 13-2 lead but found itself trailing 19-18 after Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard had to sit down early with two early fouls each. Nikola Jokić scored 14 points on 12 shots for the Nuggets, as Jamal Murray was held scoreless on just two attempts.

Is Giannis playing?

Bucks head coach Doc Rivers said Giannis Antetokounmpo is available to play vs. Denver with right knee patellar tendinitis. Antetokounmpo has been playing through the injury since Feb. 4 in Utah. He’s scored 32 points combined in his last two games, however.

Milwaukee Bucks injury report

  • Khris Middleton, out (left ankle sprain)
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo, available (non-COVID illness)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, probable (right knee patellar tendinitis)
  • Damian Lillard, probable (left ankle sprain)Rivers said Lillard is available to play for the Bucks.

Bucks starting lineup

  • Guards: Malik Beasley, Damian Lillard
  • Forwards: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jae Crowder
  • Center: Brook Lopez

When will Khris Middleton be back?

Middleton sprained his left ankle after landing on Kevin Durant’s foot on Feb. 6 in Phoenix, and he exited the Footprint Center in a walking boot that night. Though he was no longer in need of support on his ankle when the team returned to Milwaukee on Feb. 8 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves, Rivers called it a “bad” ankle sprain.

With the all-star break coming up from Feb. 16-22, it’s likely Middleton will not return to action until after the team returns – at the earliest.

“It ain’t gonna heal quickly – maybe at 21 (years old),” Rivers said at Sunday’s practice with a chuckle. “With Khris, probably all of our guys but more the veteran guys, listen, I want to win every game right now but I really want to be great at the end of the year. And bottom line is for me, we have to be healthy. That’s basically, sitting with our medical people, one of the first things I said. I’m not the coach that will push guys to play. I’m the coach, right now, that will sit guys and train and prepare because no matter what happens, if we win ‘em all and aren’t ready – or lose ‘em all and are ready – I’ll take that. That’s gotta be our mindset. We want to win every game. I’m competitive as hell. I don’t like losing games. But, we want to be prepared.”

Denver vs. Milwaukee last game; Nikola Jokic stats

The reigning NBA champion Nuggets beat the Bucks, 113-107, on Jan. 29 in a game that started a five-game road trip for the Bucks. It was also Rivers’ Bucks head coaching debut.

Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray scored a game-high 35 points on 13 of 22 shooting and 9 of 10 from the free-throw line. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic had a triple double with 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists.

Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 29 points.

The Bucks would go on to win only one game on the road trip.

Bucks vs. Nuggets odds: spread, over/under point total

Milwaukee is a 1.5-point favorite over Denver and the over/under for the game is 232.5 points, per BetMGM.

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