2024 NBA playoff picks, Game 1 best bets from top model

After being swept out of the Western Conference finals by the Denver Nuggets last season, the Los Angeles Lakers will get a chance at revenge on Saturday when the teams meet in Game 1 of their 2024 NBA playoffs first-round series in Denver. The seventh-seeded Lakers (47-35), who are coming off a 110-106 win over New Orleans in a play-in matchup on Tuesday, are riding a three-game winning streak. The second-seeded Nuggets (57-25), the defending NBA champions, have won four of their last five games. This is the third time in the past five years the teams will be meeting in the postseason, and the Lakers have won seven of the eight playoff series between them. Los Angeles leads the all-time series 138-91, including a 25-12 edge in the postseason.

Tipoff from Ball Arena in Denver is set for 8:30 p.m. ET. Denver is a 7-point favorite in the latest Lakers vs. Nuggets odds from SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 223.5. Before making any Nuggets vs. Lakers picks, be sure to check out the NBA predictions and betting advice from the SportsLine Projection Model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters the 2024 NBA playoffs on a sizzling 88-58 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning more than $2,600. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Lakers vs. Nuggets and just locked in its picks and NBA predictions. You can visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are the NBA odds and betting lines for Lakers vs. Nuggets:

Lakers vs. Nuggets spread: Nuggets -7
Lakers vs. Nuggets over/under: 223.5 points
Lakers vs. Nuggets money line: Lakers +229, Nuggets -286
LAL: The Lakers went 27-25 this season against Western Conference opponents
DEN: The Nuggets went 33-8 at home, and are 67-15 at Ball Arena over the past two years
Lakers vs. Nuggets picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Nuggets can cover
Veteran center Nikola Jokic continues to dominate. The eight-year pro nearly averaged a triple-double with 26.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 9.0 assists per game in 79 appearances. He posted an amazing 68 double-doubles and 25 triple-doubles on the year. He reached double-digit scoring 75 times, including 28 games with 30 or more. In a 116-107 win over Minnesota on April 10, he scored 41 points, while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out seven assists.

Point guard Jamal Murray has also found the range of late, scoring 20 or more points in each of the last four games. In a 121-120 loss at San Antonio on April 12, he poured in 35 points, while adding five rebounds and four assists. He has reached 10 or more points 54 times this season, including eight with 30 or more. He has posted 11 double-doubles. In 59 games, all starts, Murray is averaging 21.2 points, 6.5 assists and 4.1 rebounds. See which team to pick here.

Why the Lakers can cover
Small forward LeBron James nearly had his second triple-double in a row on Tuesday in the play-in game win over New Orleans. In that game, James scored 23 points, while adding nine rebounds and nine assists. He had 28 points, 17 assists and 11 rebounds in Sunday’s 124-108 win over the Pelicans. In 71 games, all starts, James is averaging 25.7 points, 8.3 assists, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 35.3 minutes. He has been productive against the Nuggets this season. In three games, he is averaging 24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and 1.7 steals.

Power forward Anthony Davis has also been dominant of late, posting three consecutive double-doubles. In Tuesday’s play-in win over the Pelicans, Davis scored 20 points, while grabbing 15 rebounds. He had 30 points and 11 boards at New Orleans on Sunday, and 36 points and 14 rebounds in a 123-120 win at Memphis on April 12. In 76 games, all starts, Davis is averaging 24.7 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.2 steals in 35.5 minutes. See which team to pick here.

How to make Lakers vs. Nuggets picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the total, projecting 224 combined points. It has also generated an against-the-spread pick that cashes in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the model’s pick and analysis at SportsLine.

So who wins Lakers vs. Nuggets, and which side of the spread cashes in well over 50% of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Lakers vs. Nuggets spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that has returned more than $2,600 on its NBA picks this season, and find out.

Why Nuggets will slow key Lakers player, plus more for Saturday

Now that the 2024 NBA postseason has begun, the basketball betting market is hotter than ever. CBS Sports will be providing daily picks for the duration of the postseason. Sam Quinn will make at least one pick for every game between now and the NBA Finals.

Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
This is my favorite bet on Saturday’s slate. Playoff games tend to be lower-scoring than their regular-season counterparts. Here we have the No. 3-ranked defense (Orlando) and the No. 7 ranked defense (Cleveland). Donovan Mitchell has played in only 11 games since the All-Star break, and he’s averaged just 19.5 points on 40.4% shooting in those games. He’s clearly still playing hurt. The Magic have given Jonathan Isaac, the best per-minute defender in the NBA, a bigger role lately and even started him in the season finale. This is going to be an all-defense series. The lines aren’t reflecting that yet. They will soon. The Pick: Under 207.5

Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves
This is just a nightmare matchup for Minnesota. Their league-best defense is predicated on Rudy Gobert’s drop-defense at the rim and the relentless pressure they can put on the ball with Jaden McDaniels, Anthony Edwards and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. How do you beat drop-coverage? By shooting jumpers. The Suns do that as well as anyone. Minnesota isn’t going to use all three of their top perimeter defenders at the same time because that crowds Mike Conley out of the lineup if they’re playing two bigs. That means one of Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker will have someone to pick on. The Pick: Suns +1.5

Philadelphia 76ers at New York Knicks
Kyle Lowry has played 35 playoff games with Nick Nurse as his head coach. He’s averaged 37.5 minutes in those games. Even normal coaches trim their rotations and rely on the players they trust most far more in the playoffs than they do in the regular season. Nick Nurse isn’t a normal coach. He’s already the most starter-heavy coach in the NBA (except perhaps his counterpart in this series). That’s going to mean plenty of Lowry, who averaged 4.6 assists per game once he joined the 76ers. This line is more than two assists below that average. The Pick: Lowry Over 2.5 Assists

Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets
D’Angelo Russell scored 25 points in the 2023 Western Conference Finals. That’s not his average. That’s his four-game total. By Game 4, Darvin Ham had lost so much trust in him that Russell was removed from the starting lineup and played less than 15 minutes in the series-decider. Russell scored 17 points the last time these teams played, but Ham largely didn’t play him down the stretch, instead removing him with 7:37 remaining and only bringing him back when the Lakers trailed by seven with 1:34 remaining. This isn’t his matchup. Ham doesn’t trust him against Denver. The Pick: Russell Under 15.5 Points

2024 NBA playoff picks, Game 1 best bets from proven model

The No. 4 seed Cleveland Cavaliers (48-34) and No. 5 seed Orlando Magic (47-35) will meet for Game 1 of a highly anticipated first-round 2024 NBA playoff series in the Eastern Conference on Saturday afternoon. They split their four regular-season meetings, with both teams winning once at home and once on the road. The Magic are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2020 after wrapping up their best regular season since 2010-11. Cleveland is hoping to advance past the first round for the first time since 2017-18 after losing to the Knicks in five games last year.

Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are 4.5-point favorites in the latest Cavaliers vs. Magic odds from SportsLine consensus, while the over/under for total points scored is 207.5. Before making any Cavaliers vs. Magic picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from the proven computer model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters the 2024 NBA playoffs on a sizzling 88-58 roll on all top-rated NBA picks this season, returning more than $2,600. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Magic vs. Cavs and just locked in its picks and NBA playoff predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Cavs vs. Magic:

Magic vs. Cavaliers spread: Cleveland -4.5
Magic vs. Cavaliers over/under: 207.5 points
Magic vs. Cavaliers money line: Cleveland -198, Orlando +164
ORL: The Magic are 51-31 against the spread this season.
CLE: The Cavaliers are 39-43 against the spread this season.
Magic vs. Cavaliers picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Magic can cover
Forward Paolo Banchero is impactful in multiple ways for the Magic. Banchero is a smooth playmaker and high-end finisher around the rim. The 2022 first-overall pick logs 22.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. He dropped 26 points, 11 boards and seven assists in his last outing.

Forward Franz Wagner brings another nice scoring threat to the frontcourt. Wagner owns the instincts to be disruptive defensively with the athleticism to finish around the rim with ease. The Michigan product averages 19.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He had 25 points, five rebounds and three assists in his last outing. Wagner notched 20-plus points in five of his last six games. See which team to pick here.

Why the Cavaliers can cover
Orlando has not won a playoff series since the Dwight Howard era, winning just two total playoff games over the past decade. Cleveland has recent playoff experience, making the field last year before bowing out to New York. The Cavaliers will have the best player on the court in All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, who averages 27.3 points, 7.3 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game.

He dropped 35 points against the Magic in December, and he also leads Cleveland on defense with 2.6 steals per game. Orlando relies heavily on second-year player Paolo Banchero, but he will be playing in the first playoff game of his career. The Cavaliers have won five of their last six home games against Orlando, and they have the upper hand due to being the more experienced team on Saturday. See which team to pick here.

How to make Magic vs. Cavaliers picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the total, projecting the teams to combine for 213 points. The model also says one side hits in well over 60% of simulations. You can only see the model’s pick and analysis at SportsLine.

So who Magic vs. Cavaliers, and which side hits in well over 60% of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Cavs vs. Magic spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that has returned more than $2,600 on its NBA picks this season, and find out.

Top DraftKings, FanDuel daily Fantasy basketball picks for Saturday, Nov. 25 include Kyle Kuzma

Multiple teams will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back during Saturday’s NBA schedule, including the Miami Heat. They led New York by 21 points on Friday night before blowing the lead in the fourth quarter, scoring just 11 points in the final frame. Center Bam Adebayo posted a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, while small forward Jimmy Butler had a team-high 23 points. Adebayo is averaging a double-double this season, making him a popular NBA DFS pick.

Butler has scored at least 20 points in four of his last six games, creating a potential NBA DFS stack with Adebayo. Should you include either of them in your NBA DFS lineups on Saturday? Before making your NBA DFS picks, be sure to check out the NBA DFS advice, player rankings, stacks and top daily Fantasy basketball picks from SportsLine’s Mike McClure.

McClure is a DFS professional with more than $2 million in career winnings. He’s also a predictive data engineer at SportsLine who uses a powerful prediction model that simulates every minute of every game 10,000 times, taking factors like matchups, statistical trends and injuries into account.

This allows him to find the best NBA DFS values and create optimal lineups that he shares only over at SportsLine. They’re a must-see for any NBA DFS player.

On Friday, McClure highlighted Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton as one of his top picks in his NBA DFS player pool on both sites. The result: Haliburton had 26 points, 10 assists and two rebounds, returning 47 points on DraftKings and 42.4 points on FanDuel. Anybody who included him in their lineups was well on the way to a profitable day.

McClure has turned his attention to NBA action on Saturday and locked in his top daily Fantasy basketball picks. You can only see them by heading to SportsLine.

Top NBA DFS picks for Saturday, November 25
For Saturday, one of McClure’s top NBA DFS picks is Wizards power forward Kyle Kuzma, who is listed at $8,400 on DraftKings and $8,000 on FanDuel. Washington relies heavily on Kuzma to do a large chunk of its scoring, as he is averaging 23.6 points per game, which is six points better than the team’s second-leading scorer. He has scored at least 22 points in three straight games, posting two double-doubles during that stretch.

Kuzma has a high ceiling to go along with his consistency, scoring more than 30 points on two occasions this season. He also fills up the stat sheet in other categories, averaging 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 0.67 blocks per game. Kuzma finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists against Atlanta three weeks ago.

Another part of McClure’s optimal NBA DFS strategy includes stacking Kuzma with point guard Tyus Jones ($5,600 on DraftKings and $5,700 on FanDuel). The veteran is coming off his best performance of the season, posting 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting in a loss to Milwaukee on Friday night. Jones also grabbed seven rebounds and seven assists to finish with huge numbers in NBA DFS contests.

He has started every game for the Wizards this season, averaging a career-high 27.5 minutes per contest. Jones is shooting a career-high 50.7% from the floor while averaging less than one turnover per game, providing value to NBA DFS lineups. The 27-year-old has a favorable matchup against a Hawks defense that is No. 27 in the NBA, allowing 122.6 points per contest. See McClure’s other NBA DFS picks right here.

How to set your NBA DFS lineups for Saturday, November 25
McClure is also targeting a player who could go off for massive numbers on Saturday because of a dream matchup. This pick could be the difference between winning your tournaments and cash games or going home with nothing. You can only see who it is here.

2023 NBA picks, November 25 predictions from proven computer model

The Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4) and Philadelphia 76ers (10-5) will meet in a battle between two of the league’s hottest teams on Saturday evening. Oklahoma City is riding a six-game winning streak, moving into second place in the Western Conference standings. The Thunder returned from a three-game road trip with a 116-102 win over Chicago on Wednesday night. Philadelphia has won 10 of its last 14 games, but it is coming off back-to-back losses to Cleveland and Minnesota.

Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. ET at the Paycom Center. Philadelphia is favored by 1 point in the latest Thunder vs. 76ers odds, while the over/under is set at 229 points, per SportsLine consensus. Before entering any 76ers vs. Thunder picks, you’ll want to see the NBA predictions from the model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five-plus seasons. The model enters Week 5 of the 2023-24 NBA season on an 82-46 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning more than $3,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

The model has set its sights on Philadelphia-Oklahoma City. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several NBA betting lines for the game:

Thunder vs. 76ers spread: 76ers -1
Thunder vs. 76ers over/under: 229 points
Thunder vs. 76ers money line: 76ers -120, Thunder +101
Thunder vs. 76ers picks: See picks here
Why the Thunder can cover
Oklahoma City’s six-game winning streak is the team’s longest since the 2018-19 season, and its 11-4 start is its best after 15 games since the 2013-14 season. The Thunder swept the Warriors in back-to-back road games last week before adding a blowout win at Portland on Sunday. They returned home on Wednesday with a 116-102 win over Chicago, covering the spread as 7.5-point favorites.

Star shooting guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poured in 40 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed five rebounds in an all-around performance. He leads the Thunder with 30.4 points, 6.3 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game, while Chet Holmgren is averaging 17 points. Philadelphia is coming off consecutive losses to the Cavaliers and Timberwolves, with Joel Embiid missing Wednesday’s game due to a hip injury.

Why the 76ers can cover
Embiid is expected to return from his one-game absence on Saturday after being held out of Wednesday’s game. He maintains his spot as one of the league’s best players, averaging 31.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game. The 76ers have four other players averaging double figures as well, including guard Tyrese Maxey at 26.3 points per contest.

They are one of the top rebounding teams in the NBA (45.9), while the Thunder are near the bottom of the league (41.5). Philadelphia also does an excellent job of getting to the free-throw line, shooting nearly 28 free throws per game while ranking second in free-throw percentage (85.9). The Thunder are going to be without second-leading scorer Jalen Williams (hip) for the third-straight game. See which team to pick here.

How to make Thunder vs. 76ers picks
The model has simulated 76ers vs. Thunder 10,000 times and the results are in. The model is leaning Under, and it also says one side of the spread hits more than 50% of the time. You can only see the pick at SportsLine.

Three plus-money NBA picks for Saturday highlighted by LeBron James’ matchup vs. the Cavaliers

Six NBA games are set to tip off on Saturday to follow up Friday’s In-Season tournament action. The slate will begin with an Oklahoma City Thunder-Philadelphia 76ers matchup and end with the Dallas Mavericks visiting the Los Angeles Clippers. Looking for a sports betting edge ahead of tip-off? We’ve got you covered with three worthwhile plus-money options.

Chet Holmgren O4.5 first-quarter points (+100)
Holmgren will take on Joel Embiid for the first time on Saturday and I think that this point total is very attainable for the promising OKC big man. He’s averaging 5.4 points per game in the first quarter and gave Nikola Jokic eight points in the opening quarter despite giving up a ton of weight and strength in the matchup. He held his own against one MVP center and has the ability to do so again. Holmgren’s scored at least five four-quarter points five times through his first eight home games.

Ivica Zubac O.5 assists (+102)
Zubac notched just one assist in his first five games this year but James Harden’s arrival has helped open up the floor for the Clippers. The big man has tallied an assist per game since Harden made his debut with the Clippers and recorded a dime in his first meeting with the Dallas Mavericks this season. The Mavs are one of the league’s worst defenses and only four teams are giving up more assists per game to opposing teams. This is well worth wagering a unit on.

LeBron James O41.5 points, rebounds, and assists (+108)
James will play his fifth road game as a Los Angeles Laker against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday and bettors should expect him to keep up his dominance against the team that drafted him. He’s averaged 34.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 7.3 assists over his previous four outings at Rocket Mortgage Field House. James averaged 37.5 minutes and 23.0 shot attempts in those contests. He’ll likely try to keep up his pattern of putting on a show there.

Trae Young leads list of top daily NBA fantasy picks for Saturday’s slate

Saturday’s main slate will consist of six games and tip-off times range from 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET. There are plenty of strong daily fantasy plays on DraftKings and FanDuel, and I’ve gone over the options to pick out stud, mid-tier, and value plays worth watching. Here’s who you should keep an eye on ahead of the action.

Stud: Trae Young (DK: $9,500, FD: $9,500)
Young has averaged 40.5 points, 8.5 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game his last two times out and will kick off the weekend against the league’s second-worst scoring defense. The Atlanta Hawks point guard has amassed at least 25 points, eight assists, and a pair of rebounds in his last three road games against the Washington Wizards. He’s also posted four straight double-doubles against Jordan Poole. Opportunities will be there for Young as a scorer and playmaker in this matchup. He’s a better play on FanDuel for Saturday.

Mid-tier: Austin Reaves ($DK: $6,000, FD: $6,200)
Some might be skeptical about paying up for a bench player when there are so many impactful injuries in other games, but I think Reaves is well worth the price. The Los Angeles Lakers wing has posted 14.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.9 assists since moving out of the starting lineup eight games ago. He’s matched or exceeded D’Angelo Russell’s minutes five times since that move and the absence of Cam Reddish (groin) will only help him maintain his current role.

Value: Ochai Agbaji (DK:$3,900, FD: $4,500)
Agbaji experienced a drop in production his last two times out but could get a boost from Jordan Clarkson (illness) and Lauri Markkanen (hamstring) sitting out against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday. The Utah Jazz wing is averaging 16.1 points, 2.8 assists, and 2.1 rebounds through 11 games as a starter when Markkanen is inactive. He can be just as effective as pricier players like Talen Horton-Tucker because of what he provides on defense.

Celtics star out vs. Hawks with calf strain, says he’ll ‘be back very soon’

Boston Celtics big man Kristaps Porzingis has been ruled out of the team’s game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday due to a calf strain. Porzingis left the Celtics’ loss to the Orlando Magic on Nov. 24 during the third quarter and did not return. After undergoing an MRI on Saturday in Boston, Porzingis took to Instagram to issue his own update.

“Good news this morning,” Porzingis wrote. “Be back very soon.”

Porzingis noted that he felt a tweak while running and did not slip. That’s noteworthy because the Nov. 24 game was an In-Season Tournament contest, and there have been some concerns about the lack of traction on the new courts that are in use for the tournament. Earlier this season, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown tweaked his groin after slipping on the Toronto Raptors’ In-Season Tournament court and called the floor “unacceptable.”

Despite leading by double digits at multiple points, the Celtics collapsed in the second half on Friday in what turned into a 17-point loss. Porzingis finished with nine points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes.

While this issue doesn’t appear to be serious, there will be a sense of concern any time Porzingis is on the injury list. He’s only appeared in 60 games once since 2017, and has suffered multiple major knee problems in the time since, including a torn ACL and torn meniscus.

Porzingis has appeared in all but one game this season, but did deal with plantar fasciitis over the summer, which kept him out of the FIBA World Cup.

Keeping Porzingis healthy is one of the primary objectives for the Celtics, who rely heavily on the big man. He’s one of the few centers who can protect the rim and space the floor at a high level, and has been a big part of their early-season success on both sides of the ball. With Porzingis on the floor this season, the Celtics have a plus-10.2 net rating.

Behind him they have the veteran Al Horford, who will move into the starting lineup if Porzingis is forced to miss any time beyond Sunday. That’s a luxury, but beyond Horford they have very limited frontcourt depth. Luke Kornet is the only other true center that has played any sort of significant minutes this season.

NBA investigating whether Thunder player had inappropriate relationship with minor

The NBA has opened an investigation into whether Oklahoma City Thunder guard Josh Giddey had an inappropriate relationship with a minor, league spokesman Mike Bass said on Friday. Allegations against Giddey first emerged on social media late on Wednesday night.

Giddey remains eligible to play and suited up for the Thunder on Saturday in their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. He was in the starting lineup and finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Prior to the game, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault gave an explanation for why Giddey was cleared to play.

“Available to play. Will play. No change in status from a basketball standpoint,” Daigneault said. “Still, I have no comment on anything else. Just with the information that we have at this point, that’s the decision that we’ve made. It’s really not even a decision, to be honest with you.”

Regarding the investigation, Daigneault added, “It’s obviously a league matter at this point, the ball’s in their court on that.”

Giddey spoke to the media on Friday after practice, but declined to comment.

“I understand the question, obviously, but there’s no further comment right now,” Giddey said. “I get the question guys, I completely understand you guys want to know about it. Just for right now, I don’t have anything to say.”

Giddey, 21, was the No. 6 overall pick out of Australia in the 2021 NBA Draft is in his third professional season.

Bucks star out vs. Trail Blazers with Achilles tendinitis

MILWAUKEE — MIlwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton will not play Sunday in the team’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers due to left Achilles tendinitis. Middleton left the Bucks’ win over the Washington Wizards on Nov. 24, with what the team originally termed Achilles tightness.

“I think he had some tightness in his left Achilles and so just took him out for precautionary measures and then just to evaluate him tomorrow,” Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said.

Middleton did not undergo any imaging following the game on Nov. 24, though it’s unclear if that has changed in the time since.

The veteran forward has been off to a slow start this season as he works his way back from off-season knee surgery. He is still not cleared to play in back-to-backs, and has played more than 25 minutes just once. It’s unclear how long he’ll be sidelined with this new ailment, but the silver lining of his return to play plan is that the Bucks know how to play without him.

“Any time you lose a big part of your team it’s an adjustment,” Damian Lillard said. “I think because of the way the season has gone early on with him being on a restriction, he’s sat a few games, I think we’re used to it. We’re used to that hole being there and having to navigate those situations.

“Right now, we’re having a lot of things that are small hurdles for us and things that we gotta improve on and get better at. I think these are all things — his injury, some of the nagging stuff I’ve had going on, just things that we’ve dealt with in these first 15, 16 games as a team, that’s gonna make us better in the end.”

There’s no indication at this time that this is any sort of serious issue, but it is another setback for Middleton, who has really never been himself since suffering an MCL sprain in the first round of the 2022 playoffs. Since then, he has played just 51 games between the regular season and playoffs, dealt with myriad injuries and undergone two surgeries — one on his wrist last summer and one on his knee this summer.

While Middleton will be back on the floor soon, his inability to stay healthy is turning into a real concern for the Bucks. He hasn’t played 10 games in a row since March 2022, nearly two full years ago.