The injuries keep piling up for the Denver Nuggets, who carry a five-game losing streak into their Friday matchup against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
While reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic could return to face Milwaukee, the Nuggets will be without reserve guard P.J. Dozier. The fifth-year pro is sidelined indefinitely after tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament on Tuesday during Denver’s 119-100 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The short-handed Nuggets played Tuesday without Jokic, Michael Porter Jr. (back), Jamal Murray (knee) and Bones Hyland (ankle).
Jokic has missed the past three games with a right wrist sprain but could be available to face a Milwaukee team that just completed a 5-0 homestand.
Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 27.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists. He scored a game-high 33 points on Wednesday as Milwaukee crushed the Detroit Pistons 114-93.
“I think overall we’re feeling good,” Antetokounmpo said. “Like once you start winning, you know you’re going to step on the court with a different swag, you know? So I’m happy there. I’m happy. I’m happy.”
The Bucks are 7-0 this season when Antetokounmpo has played together with Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. The trio combined for 66 points, 24 rebounds and 15 assists Wednesday.
Milwaukee has received a spark from forward Bobby Portis, who tied a career high with six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 28 points against the Pistons.
Portis is averaging 15.7 points while shooting 46.2 percent from beyond the arc. The 26-year-old has scored in double figures in 10 straight games.
Portis is part of a deep Milwaukee rotation that features nine players averaging at least 20 minutes per game.
“We’re building some good habits here,” Antetokounmpo said. “And defensively we’re building good habits and offensively we’re moving the ball and finding the open man. Guys are making shots.”
Milwaukee lost its last meeting to Denver back in March, when Jokic recorded a triple-double with 37 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in a 128-97 rout.
The Nuggets face an uphill battle Friday even if Jokic is able to play.
They rank 25th in the league in scoring at 102.4 points per game and have struggled to find consistent production around Jokic, who is averaging 26.4 points, 13.6 rebounds and 6.4 assists.
Denver coach Michael Malone remains optimistic, even after watching his team commit 19 turnovers against Portland.
“Losing (stinks), it should hurt, you should be angry, you should be frustrated, you should be embarrassed, whatever it is,” Malone said. “We can’t wait for Jamal, Michael and Nikola to come back. We have to fix it. We can only do that by staying together and having a positive mindset.”
The team did receive a boost Tuesday when forward Zeke Nnaji returned after missing four games due to an ankle sprain. He contributed eight points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes.
Veteran forward Jeff Green has struggled for much of the early season but has led the Nuggets in the past two games, averaging 21.5 points on 57.7 percent shooting.