Milwaukee Bucks forward Nikola Mirotic finally made his return from injury during Game 1 of the team’s first round series against the Detroit Pistons and will have a great opportunity to ease back into action.
Even throughout their year-long dominance, the Milwaukee Bucks’ road to the playoffs wasn’t without some late season turbulence.
A rash of late season injuries that varied from nagging knocks to significant absences combined to potentially hinder the Bucks’ pursuit of notching the best record in all of the NBA and their collective firepower heading into an incredibly promising playoff run just a few weeks out from the start of this year’s postseason.
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Among those players to get hit with the injury bug was the Bucks’ big trade deadline acquisition and high-volume three-point gunner, Nikola Mirotic.
But Mirotic’s injury, along with Malcolm Brogdon‘s heel ailment, superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s string of rolled ankles, and much more, only made the Bucks stronger as reinforcements came to the fore to finish out an incredible regular season campaign.
Now over three-and-a-half weeks removed from fracturing his thumb on his shooting hand, Mirotic has shed the splint just as the Bucks started off their playoff run this year in tremendous fashion.
Mirotic’s near 15-minute return to action during the Bucks’ Game 1 throttling of the Detroit Pistons Sunday evening was mired with the usual rust on display from a lengthy stretch off, as the Montenegrin finished with just four points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field (0-of-5 from long range) and four turnovers off the bench.
As a result of his shooting struggles, the 28-year-old’s abbreviated showing was one of the lone lowlights in the Bucks’ dominant play as a whole.
Fortunately, with the way this series is shaping up to be, and in light of the report from Yahoo! Sports’ Vincent Goodwill that the Pistons will likely be without their All-Star forward Blake Griffin for the rest of their quick playoff run, Mirotic couldn’t be in a better spot to regain his form and most importantly, his shooting stroke upon getting fully healthy.
Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer already noted that Mirotic’s return turned out to be longer than he had initially thought as a result of the Bucks’ overwhelming control of the contest as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Ben Steele relayed following the opening game of the series:
"“I think the biggest thing was he got 15 minutes,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Obviously, probably didn’t have it mapped out for him to get quite that many.“But I think his conditioning is in a pretty decent place, because he’s been able to do a lot with his lower body.”"
With his conditioning resembling regular season form as Coach Bud highlighted in his postgame press conference, there will be an added amount of attention from Bucks fans to see if Mirotic’s marksmanship will eventually be in tow as his workload gradually increases. Despite having just connected on 35.6 percent of his 87 tries from long distance in his 14 regular season appearances with the Bucks, Mirotic’s quick trigger is arguably unrivaled when compared to the rest of the Bucks’ three-point shooters.
Even with his limited time on the floor since coming to Milwaukee, we’ve seen some flashes of just how explosive Mirotic can be when he has it rolling (his 18-point performance on 5-of-7 shooting from deep against the Charlotte Hornets back on March 9 comes to mind).
For a Bucks team that finished the season fourth in offensive efficiency, Mirotic’s offensive services are quite simply a luxury to this squad and it should be stated that the Spanish national teamer held the highest offensive rating of any and all Bucks players this season at 115.4 points per 100 possessions (the Bucks outscored opponents by +11.2 points per 100 possessions in the 320 minutes Mirotic was on the floor).
In any event, it’s a big boost to see Mirotic back on the floor and it will only be sweeter if or when he can catch fire to raise the Bucks to an even more staggering level throughout their playoff run this year.