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Bucks vs. Heat Preview: Khris Middleton Returns!

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After missing fifty games, Milwaukee’s lead player from last season will see his first game action this year.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Do you hear it?

That’s the sound of the team’s best player from last season getting ready to make his debut. That’s the sound of a guy who led his squad in minutes, points, made threes, and steals warming up for the first time this year. That’s the sound of rehabilitation progressing way ahead of schedule. That’s the sound of Khris Middleton, the third member of Milwaukee’s Big 3, preparing to hit the court.

It sounds pretty good, eh?

Bucks Update

Now that we’ve dispensed with the unrealistic hype, it’s time to recognize that Khris Middleton is not going to be 100% of what he was last year right away. Middleton, a 6’8” forward who can rotate between the SG, SF, and PF positions, brings exactly what the Bucks need on both ends of the court (namely shooting and versatile defense), but will be on a playing time restriction of 15-20 minutes. The good news is that he’s been practicing with the team at a high level recently, so maybe it isn’t too much pressure to expect a huge impact right away?

In other, less awesome news, tonight will mark the first opportunity for either of the Bucks new big men to see the court. While Roy Hibbert (knee) is questionable, Spencer Hawes could get the call against Miami. Hawes, a 9-year NBA veteran starting his tenure with his sixth NBA team, has the versatility to play PF or C, and (theoretically, at least) can stretch the floor from either position.

The Bucks come into this game after snapping a 5-game skid in Phoenix, and have been relatively miserable since the middle of January (where a previous 5-game losing streak was broken by defeating Houston on the road). With another 5-game stretch ahead of them, and each of them winnable games (vs. MIA, vs. LAL, @ IND, vs. DET, @ BRK), Milwaukee could regain momentum before the All Star break.

Heat Update

The Heat have been blazing hot (I’m so sorry...) during the same timeframe as the Bucks’ present malaise. With eleven(!) straight wins, Miami literally doubled it’s win total during this streak, pulling themselves out of the top of the draft lottery. Oddly enough, the Heat’s last loss came against...the Milwaukee Bucks!

Goran Dragic (20.1 points / 6.5 assists / 45.0% 3PT) and Hassan Whiteside (16.9 points / 13.9 rebounds / 2.0 blocks) may be the leaders in the season-long box score, but Dion Waiters has led the team during their current stretch. Over the last 11 games, Waiters has averaged 20.6 points (on .495/.485/.697 shooting) / 4.8 assists / 4.2 rebounds / 0.9 steals, and has pulled off as smooth of a game-winning-shot-making-pose as I’ve ever seen. His availability is in question, though, after suffering a sprained ankle...which could mean nothing for the Bucks, who have made a habit of dropping games against teams missing their top players (against Philly without Joel Embiid, against Denver without Danilo Gallinari, Toronto without Demar DeRozan, the list goes on...)

Aside from Waiters, the Heat are also without Josh McRoberts (foot), Josh Richardson (foot), and Justise Winslow (shoulder), while Chris Bosh continues to remain inactive until further notice.