One of them got deserved recognition when he was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star squad on Thursday. Khris Middleton was happy to be going back to the midseason event for the second straight year.
«Being an All-Star last year was a huge goal of mine, so you never want to take a step back,» Middleton said Thursday during an interview on TNT during the show unveiling this year’s All-Star reserves.
«I thought if I didn’t have a great year, if I wasn’t an All-Star, I might have taken a step back. This year, I just wanted to find ways to get better with myself individually and through the team, and it’s been working out so far.»
Middleton has instead improved, including a career-best 51-point performance against Washington on Tuesday night, and he will try to build on that when the Bucks host the short-handed Denver Nuggets on Friday night.
Middleton is averaging 20.2 points and 5.9 rebounds a game and gives Milwaukee another potent weapon for teams to worry about. Antetokounmpo is also going to Chicago for the All-Star Game in February, as is Denver center Nikola Jokic.
Jokic is making his second straight appearance for the Western Conference, and he has earned it while carrying the Nuggets through an injury-ravaged stretch.
Neither is expected to play against Milwaukee, and the Nuggets will also be without backup center Mason Plumlee (right foot injury). Guard Gary Harris sat out Thursday’s 106-100 over Utah for personal reasons, and his availability for Friday is not known.
Jokic has continued to shoulder more of the offensive load with the injuries. He came up big in the win over Utah on Thursday, scoring 11 straight points down the stretch to hold off a Jazz rally. He finished with 28 points and 10 assists.
«There was no doubt in my mind that he was an All-Star, that he’d be selected for his second consecutive appearance,» Denver coach Michael Malone said before Thursday’s game. «I think it symbolizes the recognition of him being a great player and the fact that we have earned a reputation as a team that has a chance to compete at the top of the West. When you have the record that we have, you deserve to have an All-Star.»
The Bucks could be without Antetokounmpo, who sat out Tuesday’s win with right shoulder soreness. He is listed as questionable for Friday.
The Nuggets wouldn’t mind if Antetokounmpo took another game off considering the players they’re missing, and playing the second of a back-to-back set.
It’s a rough end to January for the Nuggets, who played two of the hotter teams in the league this week in Memphis and Utah, but none is hotter than Milwaukee. The Bucks have won nine in a row and are 11-1 in January.
–Field Level Media