On Thursday night the Sixers, Spurs and Warriors took commanding 2-1 series leads in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
MILWAUKEE — It’s kind of bizarre.
And it happens pretty often.
Take Wednesday night, for example, when the Milwaukee Bucks played the Detroit Pistons in Game 2 of their first-round NBA playoff series.
Giannis Antetokounmpo did his usual thing, leaving tread marks on the backs of anyone trying to stop him. Eric Bledsoe played like “a pit bull,” as Brook Lopez put it. And then a third star emerged – in this game it was Pat Connaughton, blowing everyone away with his versatility coming off the bench to be the fun topic of conversation.
Milwaukee destroyed Detroit, but after the dust settled, there also was one Buck who – almost silently – contributed 24 points, eight assists, five rebounds and 8-for-8 free throw shooting in 33 minutes and walked out of Fiserv Forum without fanfare.
Maybe people don’t talk about Khris Middleton enough.
“That’s fine with me,” said Middleton, with a laugh.
But the fact is that Middleton is such a reliable fixture in the lineup and a model of consistency in games that he might be taken a little bit for granted outside of the franchise.
“I’m pretty mellow,” Middleton said, “as long as we win.”
At least that’s what he probably said. Middleton is so soft spoken he could have said “chill” or “cool” – it wasn’t completely clear. But you get the idea.
The roles of the individuals on this Bucks team, which leads Detroit 2-0 heading to Game 3 on Saturday in Detroit, have been pretty clearly defined all season. Middleton doesn’t need to carry the team. He doesn’t need to force shots.
“Just play my part,” he said. “I know I’m going to get a lot of great looks through the offense. Threes, occasional post-ups, pick-and-rolls every now and then. Just be patient. They need me to be ready when my opportunities come.”
Middleton is also healthy after sitting out a few days at the beginning of the month as a precaution for a groin pull. That said, there is one area where Middleton does take pride in the work he’s done all season.
“Just being able to fill in at any type of spot,” said Middleton.
“Coach (Mike Budenholzer) puts me in any position, I’m able to see some way to make a play or be reliable some type of way.”
Middleton’s numbers speak to his consistently high production.
–In April games he’s right at 22 points a game on average.
–In March, he averaged 20.7 points a game, with just two games in the single digits.
–In February, he averaged 17.6 points, no lapses.
–In January, 16.4 points. If anything, it’s impressive that Middleton’s averages have climbed from 15.9 a game in December to what they are now.
Still, Middleton can fly under the radar.
“Obviously the three big guys, Giannis, Khris, Eric Bledsoe: very good,” was about all Budenholzer said in his post-game news conference Wednesday night.
But Middleton’s contributions aren’t taken for granted.
“He just does what he does,” said center Lopez. “We’re all lucky that he’s here. He’s consistent. Solid.
“It’s really one less thing to worry about.
“I think our entire team is unassuming that way.”