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Bucks’ Nikola Mirotic practices with team, boosts chance of recovering in time for the playoffs

Nikola Mirotic

The Milwaukee Bucks acquired Nikola Mirotic at the trade deadline with the postseason in mind. Fortunately, it appears more and more likely the sharp-shooting big man will return from an injured thumb just in time to help Milwaukee when it matters most.

“He was able to go through the whole practice,” coach Mike Budenholzer said of Mirotic, per Matt Velasquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We scrimmaged a little bit; not a ton. He went through every thing live. We’ll evaluate him tomorrow; today was a big step, to go through a practice, especially scrimmage and contact.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll come through good tomorrow. If he continues to progress, (we’re) hopeful that he’ll be available for Game 1.”

Mirotic, one of the most highly-valued players on the trade market in February, has played only 14 games in a Bucks uniform. Originally beset by a hamstring injury that delayed his Milwaukee debut until after the All-Star break, he then proceeded to suffer a slight fracture in his left thumb, leaving him sidelined since March 20th. The fifth-year pro averaged 11.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 22.9 minutes per game off the bench for Milwaukee before his injury, shooting 35.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Even if Mirotic has a clean bill of health, expect Budenholzer to slow-play his return to the court after almost a month away from the game. The Detroit Pistons just don’t pose much of a threat to the Bucks on either end of the floor, especially with Blake Griffin hobbled. The last thing Budenholzer wants, of course, is to stretch Mirotic too thin, rendering him less effective than he would have been otherwise against stronger Eastern Conference foes later in the playoffs.

Game 1 between the Milwaukee and Detroit is on Sunday at Fiserv Forum.