Giannis Antetokounmpo injury update: Bucks sound alarm bells before Game 1 vs. Pacers

The Milwaukee Bucks could be in trouble.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages

The Milwaukee Bucks are preparing to start their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

Antetokounmpo continues to undergo treatment on a left calf strain that caused him to miss the Bucks' final three regular season games. Milwaukee is hopeful that Giannis can return later in the series, but he is not expected to play in Game 1.

Giannis Antetokounmpo injury update: Bucks All-Star expected to miss Game 1 vs. Pacers

It's hard to imagine a worse outcome for Milwaukee, aside from the silver lining that Giannis can still return later in the series. The Bucks already faced an uphill battle. Doc Rivers is 17-19 since taking over as the Bucks' head coach, and Milwaukee went 1-4 against Indiana in the regular season. Giannis dominated those games individually, often keeping the Bucks close by sheer force of will. Without him, every sign points toward Indiana as the heavy favorites.

Giannis averaged 42.2 points and 13 rebounds in five regular season meetings with Indiana, which seems fake. That makes the Bucks' 1-4 record in those games even more damning. It's a terrible matchup. Milwaukee doesn't have the personnel to guard Tyrese Haliburton, nor to contain the Pacers' explosive, up-tempo offense. The Pascal Siakam addition further complicates the matter for Milwaukee. Giannis would have been the best option to combat Siakam one-on-one. Now, the Bucks will rely heavily on Jae Crowder, Bobby Portis Sr., and Pat Connaughton to pick up the slack. This would be a great time to dust off Andre Jackson Jr., but knowing Doc Rivers, that won't happen.

The Pacers are going to be the trendiest upset pick in the first round. That would have been the case with Giannis fully healthy, but now, it's hard to even consider the Bucks favorites. This is, to a certain extent, why the Bucks went out and traded for Damian Lillard. He has carried teams on his shoulders in the playoffs before. That said, Lillard has been on a noticeable decline in recent months, and the Bucks' collectively advanced age, combined with poor defensive personnel, should play in favor of the spry and electric Pacers.

Giannis is difficult to pick against, especially in the first round. When healthy, he is more than capable of dragging Milwaukee through a "bad" matchup on the strength of his own star-power. That is no longer the case for Dame, however, and even once Giannis does return, there's no guarantee that he is operating at 100 percent capacity. Calf strains are tricky, fickle injuries, so the Bucks are in a real bind.

It's premature to declare Milwaukee's season over, but the alarm bells are ringing.

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