Over a week since returning from a left thigh contusion, All-Star swingman Khris Middleton has fit right back in just as the Milwaukee Bucks have taken their play to new heights this season.
For the second straight season, the Milwaukee Bucks continue to fly high at the top of the NBA.
The Bucks are fresh off of tallying their 14th consecutive victory after decimating the LA Clippers in a 119-91 victory Friday night and they have fully put the early concerns, which arose as a result of some uncharacteristic lapses from their first few games, behind them.
While the Bucks had been able to feast on lesser opponents after going through an exceptionally tough slate to open the season before their second meeting of the campaign with the Clippers last time out, they’ve also been able to compile this streak without some key pieces in the mix.
It all started back on November 10 when the Bucks edged past the Oklahoma City Thunder to finish out a brutal road swing out West, which was notable as they were able to complete the win without All-Star swingman Khris Middleton.
What looked to be a mere bumping of the knees with Thunder wing Terrance Ferguson turned into a left thigh contusion, which sidelined Middleton for an initial diagnosis of three-to-four weeks.
Ultimately, Middleton returned to action seven games later after missing a little more than two weeks and ever since then, the All-Star swingman has been able to pick up right where he was before his thigh injury. That initially included coming off the bench, with Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer placing a minutes restriction on the 28-year-old. The benefits of doing so were obvious beyond just helping Middleton get back up to game shape after a two-week layoff.
Having Middleton play controlled spurts leading bench-heavy lineups gave Budenholzer and the Bucks a reliable hub to buoy such lineup configurations without superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe, and the ability to stagger their integral contributors.
The former Aggie has since been reinserted back into the starting five over the last four games, but Middleton’s minutes have remained down from his season average of 27.2 minutes per game, given just how overwhelming the Bucks have been in their victories over the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, the Detroit Pistons and most recently, the Clippers.
Since returning from his injury, Middleton is averaging 15.5 points on 54.4 percent shooting from the field (8-of-19 shooting from three, 11-of-12 from the foul line), 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 0.8 steals over 21.3 minutes per contest over the last six games.
While Middleton’s three-point shooting has started to pick up over the last couple of wins, it’s been his playmaking ability that has shown out as he’s been able to distribute the ball without piling up miscues as his 24 assists have come with just four turnovers, making for a 6.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
That’s only played into the Bucks’ best stretch of getting everyone involved in the offense and collectively shooting the lights out, especially as they logged a season-high 41 assists in their victory over the Hornets last weekend. Along with Middleton’s ability to lead the offense, he’s also been able to flash his defensive anticipation to break into passing lanes, which differs from the more-team defending ways Middleton usually excels in on that end of the floor.
This stretch has not only helped the Bucks to clean up against inferior opponents, but it’s helped Middleton get back into the form he was displaying before his thigh contusion temporarily derailed his early season play.
Taking care of business is what is expected of the Bucks every time they take the floor and with looming challenges such as the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Lakers coming in the next couple of weeks, the Bucks and Middleton will use this streak to reinforce their elite status.