Bucks forward Khris Middleton scores 17 points in season debut vs. Lakers

Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton made his season debut on Friday against the Lakers after undergoing offseason wrist surgery. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Middleton tallied 17 points, two rebounds and seven assists against the Lakers.
  • Last season, Middleton averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists a game.
  • The Lakers defeated the Bucks 133-129. With 10 assists Friday night, LeBron James moved to No. 6 all-time in career assists, surpassing Magic Johnson.

What does Middleton mean to the Bucks?

Plenty of people around the league believe the Bucks would have repeated as NBA champions last season if Middleton never got hurt in the Bucks’ first round series against the Bulls. And it is difficult to disagree with that assessment. They pushed the Celtics to seven games without Middleton and he was one of only 17 players to average at least 20 points, six rebounds and five assists per game last season.

Middleton is the primary ballhandler for the Bucks in clutch situations, picking out the right pass for Giannis Antetokounmpo or just hitting big shots himself, and Antetokounmpo’s most frequent pick-and-roll partner throughout the rest of the game. The three-time All-Star forward is a major reason why the Bucks’ have been a top-five offensive unit since Budenholzer took over in 2018 and one of the team’s most important leaders. — Nehm

How did Middleton play?

Middleton ended up playing 27 minutes in the Bucks’ losing effort and he performed well. He went 6-of-11 from the field, including 3-of-4 from the 3-point line and also threw seven assists. On multiple occasions, he looked like the Middleton of old as he worked in the pick-and-roll with Antetokounmpo, but the rust showed briefly at the end of the game as he missed a floater off the glass and mishandled a low pass from Grayson Allen in clutch time.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was a strong opening impression for Middleton’s 2022-23 season. — Nehm

Highlight of the Game

What they are saying

“He’s someone that’s been here for a long time,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Helped us build and grow this and he’s a special player. And really both ends of the court and leadership and just so many ways that you guys get to see and some ways that you don’t. He’s a big part of who we are, so getting him back and getting him on the court, it’s a good night for us, a great night for us.”

Required reading

(Photo: Michael McLoone / USA Today)


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