The Milwaukee Bucks are likely to open their first NBA Finals since 1974 without their two-time MVP.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) has been listed as doubtful for Game 1 of the Finals, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Antetokounmpo has been out since the third quarter of Game 4 in the Eastern Conference finals, in which he hyperextended his left knee while landing in the paint. He would miss the Bucks' next two games, but the team still managed to put away the Atlanta Hawks (also dealing with an injury to Trae Young), to win the series in six games.
In Antetokounmpo's absence, the Bucks elevated Bobby Portis to starter and were rewarded with an average of 17 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists with zero turnovers in Games 5 and 6.
When will Giannis Antetokounmpo return?
Antetokounmpo's health remains the biggest question looming over the NBA Finals. Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported before Game 6 of the ECF that there was a belief Antetokounmpo could have received the green light in a potential Game 7 on Monday, but a Game 1 obviously carries much less urgency for the team.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer reported earlier Monday that Antetokounmpo had improved enough to do on-court work, though declined to say what the star was exactly doing on the court, per ESPN's Malika Andrews.
Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said Sunday that his team was preparing as if Antetokounmpo would play, but with a backup plan in case he doesn't.
If Antetokounmpo is unable to suit up, it will continue a run of playoff opponents well below 100 percent for the Suns, who have defeated the Los Angeles Lakers with Anthony Davis significantly hobbled by a groin injury, the Denver Nuggets without Jamal Murray and the Los Angeles Clippers without Kawhi Leonard.
Of course, the Bucks have also faced the Hawks with Young hobbled, the Brooklyn Nets with Kyrie Irving and James Harden out for much of the series and the Miami Heat without Victor Oladipo. Such is life in the NBA in 2021.
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