Lillard practices fully and Antetokounmpo remains out of live drills as Bucks prepare for playoffs

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Damian Lillard practiced fully but Giannis Antetokounmpo remained out of live drills Friday as the Milwaukee Bucks continued getting ready for Sunday’s playoff opener against the Indiana Pacers.

Lillard is dealing with a sore adductor that limited him the last weekend of the regular season, while Antetokounmpo missed the Bucks’ final three regular-season games with a strained left calf. Although Bucks President Peter Feigin told Milwaukee radio station WKLH that Antetokounmpo “definitely will not be back for Sunday,” coach Doc Rivers said he isn’t ready to rule the two-time MVP out for the start of the series.

“I don’t know yet,” Rivers said Friday. “We’re still hoping. He hasn’t done anything. Would we throw him out there? Yeah, we would. For us, still we’re not sure.”

Rivers said Antetokounmpo was in the gym Friday and did “walk-through stuff, but didn’t do anything live.” Antetokounmpo averaged 42.2 points and 13 rebounds in Milwaukee’s five regular-season games with Indiana, including a franchise single-game record 64 points in the Bucks’ lone victory over the Pacers.

Antetokounmpo’s likely absence for the start of the series means the Bucks will have to lean more heavily on Lillard, who practiced fully Friday for the first time this week.

“I felt solid,” Lillard said afterward.

Lillard sat out a loss at Oklahoma City on April 12. He returned two days later, but shot just 2 of 14 from the floor in a loss at Orlando. Lillard has been dealing with an Achilles issue as well as the sore adductor.

“It was good to get back into it,” Lillard said. “Obviously it’s going to take me that much time. I needed today, and then tomorrow will be a better day. Even if it’s not live, I’ll just feel better after getting into action and be ready for Sunday.”

Lillard is returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2021, missing out with the Portland Trail Blazers the last two years. The seven-time all-NBA guard hasn’t advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs since Portland reached the Western Conference finals in 2019.

“One thing I’ve been thinking about all week is I’ve gone my whole career wanting an opportunity to win,” Lillard said. “I always thought I had a chance to win, but being in this situation, I keep taking myself back to how I feel when I got traded here, realizing the opportunity that was in front of me. … I kind of refocus myself on that. The season is over and this is what we came here to have an opportunity to do, whether we’re healthy or not, eventually we will be. If our mind is right, we’re going to have every opportunity to get something done.”

In other injury news, Rivers said reserve guard AJ Green was able participate in much of Friday’s practice. Green hadn’t practiced earlier this week and missed Milwaukee’s last two regular-season games with a sprained left ankle.