Middleton missed Sunday’s game against the Utah Jazz with what the team initially believed was a non-COVID illness, before he entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols ahead of Tuesday’s game.
“We thought he just had a head cold or some type of non-COVID illness,” Budenholzer said. “And then, [he] didn’t feel good again the next day. Got tested and has come back positive.”
A player who tests positive has to sit out for a minimum of 10 days, which could knock Middleton out for potentially the next six games through next Friday’s matchup on the road against the Boston Celtics.
Middleton’s absence is the latest blow to an already depleted Bucks roster. Entering Tuesday’s game, only seven players had appeared in all seven of the team’s games, including two-way guard Justin Robinson. Milwaukee had already been missing two starters — Jrue Holiday (left ankle sprain) and Brook Lopez (back soreness) — from opening night. Donte Divincenzo, their projected starting shooting guard, has not played since he injured his left ankle during the playoffs last year.
Holiday is on track to be the first to return among the group. He returned to practice recently, but after an abbreviated offseason following the NBA Finals and playing for Team USA in the Olympics, the team will be cautious with his return from injury.
“We’ve been very, very fortunate, it feels like, for my three years here in Milwaukee to be very, very healthy,” Budenholzer said. “Yeah it’s a challenge to figure out who’s available, to get the best groupings out there and how we can get through a game. And not really wear down the guys that are healthy.”
Isaiah Thomas’ late 3 helps USA Basketball open World Cup qualifying with win over Cuba
CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — Isaiah Thomas made sure USA Basketball’s road to the 2023 World Cup didn’t begin with a major upset.
Thomas scored 21 points, including a sealing 3-pointer with 13.3 seconds left, and the Americans erased a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Cuba 95-90 on Sunday in their World Cup qualifying opener.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to put USA on your chest,” the 32-year-old Thomas said. “So, anytime USA Basketball comes calling, I’m always going to be for it. We have a great group of guys, a great coaching staff, and it was fun to be out there. It was a great game. It was a tough game for us.”
The lead was just two after a Cuba basket by Jasiel Rivero with 34 seconds remaining. The U.S. didn’t call a timeout, and Thomas kept the ball in his hands for the entirety of what became the biggest possession of the game for the Americans.
The two-time NBA All-Star — who averaged 29 points for the Boston Celtics in 2016-17 and spent a considerable amount of time battling injuries since — waited for a screen, used it and connected from near the top of the key for a 93-88 lead.
“We have prepared for those moments,” U.S. coach Jim Boylen said. “We were organized. And he made a huge play.”
Thomas — an NBA free agent with hopes of getting back into the league — last appeared on the national team in February, starting two games during qualifying for the AmeriCup. He led the team with 14 points per game in those contests, with the U.S. defeating the Bahamas and Mexico.
He was in the NBA briefly last season, averaging 7.7 points in three games with New Orleans.
“For me, personally, the ultimate goal is to get back in the NBA,” Thomas said. “But I just love playing the game of basketball. So, obviously, at some point, if the NBA isn’t an option, I’ve got to look at options overseas. But I’m in love with the game. No matter where I’m playing, I have no pride whatsoever. I love competing and I love playing against the best players in the world.”
Brian Bowen II and B.J. Johnson each scored 16 points for the U.S., while Justin Anderson added 10 for the Americans.
Rivero, who plays professionally in the top Spanish league, led all scorers with 34 points for Cuba. Karel Guzman scored 18 and Yoanki Mensia finished with 12 for Cuba.
“We give all the respect to Cuba,” Thomas said. “They were a hell of a team. They made everything tough for us. They were talented.”
Marcos Chacon’s 3-pointer with 8:45 left gave Cuba an 80-73 lead. The Americans answered with a quick 9-0 run — Bowen and Thomas made 3-pointers to get the U.S. within one, then Thomas added a three-point play to cap the flurry and put his team back on top 82-80.
It was tied twice more from there. Johnson’s 3-pointer pushed the U.S. edge to 88-84 with 2:46 left, and Thomas sealed it in the final moments.
“We stuck to the game plan and we got a win,” Thomas said.
USA Basketball is using a roster composed primarily of G League players for qualifying, then added Thomas a few days before training camp began earlier this month in Houston. The U.S. is ranked No. 1 in the world by FIBA and is coming off the Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games, but it still needs to qualify all over again for the World Cup — which is one of the paths teams can use toward qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The U.S. concludes its trip to Mexico by playing the host nation in another qualifying game on Monday night. The two games in Mexico are the first of six first-round games for the U.S. in World Cup qualifying. The Americans are also scheduled to play Puerto Rico on Feb. 24, Mexico on Feb. 27, Puerto Rico on July 1 and Cuba again on July 4 in the opening qualifying round.
There are four teams in each of four qualifying groups out of the FIBA Americas region. The top three teams in each group move on to the second round of qualifying, which starts in August and runs through February 2023.
The World Cup is scheduled Aug. 25 to Sept. 10, 2023, with the final in the Philippines and other games taking place in Japan and Indonesia.
USA: Faces Mexico on Monday.
Cuba: Faces Puerto Rico on Monday.
Stephen Curry ‘let my emotions go,’ then sparked Golden State Warriors to eighth straight win
The Golden State Warriors star scored 13 of his team-high 33 points in the fourth quarter and caught fire with just over nine minutes left, after a drive toward the basket in which he thought he got fouled by Clippers small forward Terance Mann. Curry did not get the benefit of the whistle and let his frustrations fly, earning a technical foul, while displaying more outward anger than at any other point this season.
“I thought I got fouled, so I let my emotions go,” Curry admitted after the team’s eighth straight win. “And definitely fired me up, fired our team up — you have to be able to direct that energy into just putting the ball in the basket, obviously, after that. So that’s where I feel like we do it well, where you don’t let it become a distraction for the rest of the game, and it obviously helped open up the game.”
Curry, who is now averaging 28.4 points a game this season, broke his own record of becoming the quickest player in history to make 100 3-pointers on the year — this time in 19 games. His play is a major reason the Warriors have started off the season with a league-best 18-2 record — as his emotional outburst at the lack of a call was noticeable to his teammates and coaches.
“It was as upset as I’ve seen Steph in a long time,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And it was as upset as I’ve been in a long time, too. It’s kind of a miracle that I didn’t get a technical, but it seemed to get him going.
“Whatever it takes, I guess … he clearly got fouled. Steph is a guy who, he’s just so competitive, and when he knows he got fouled — especially in a play like that in transition where it’s right out in the open, easy to see, and he doesn’t get the call, every once in a while he’s going to snap. He doesn’t do it often, but when he knows he’s right, the competitor in him comes out and he’ll kind of lose his mind a little bit, but it often spurs him, like it did in this instance.”
Kerr’s point was exemplified with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in regulation as Curry hit a contested 3-pointer in the corner and celebrated by firing off what appeared to be his own technical signal, in response to getting a technical foul a few moments earlier. When asked after the game if that was a technical sign or a sign to Clippers coach Ty Lue to call a time out, Curry said:
“You can decide. It’s open for interpretation.”
Curry’s teammates knew as soon as they saw the usually calm and collected 33-year-old get fired up, the Clippers were going to have a problem.
Curry’s big close pushed the Warriors to their seventh straight win and sets up an early-season showdown on Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns — who have won 16 games in a row and sit one game behind the Warriors in the Western Conference standings.
“Obviously, they’re following [Devin Booker and Chris Paul],” Green said. “So you got to try and cut the head of the snake off whenever you’re trying to stop anyone’s attack, but overall I think it will be a good game. Highly anticipated. Two teams that’s playing well — obviously, they’ve won 16 in a row, you want to be the team to go stop that and you got a great opportunity to do it.”
MRI results come back for Atlanta Hawks’ Bogdan Bogdanovic, Cam Reddish
Also hurt in that game was Cam Reddish.
The Hawks on Sunday said Reddish also underwent an MRI, which confirmed a left wrist sprain. He is day-to-day.
Bogdanovic is averaging 11.6 points this season; Reddish is coming in at 11.5.
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