If Game 3 was Tuesday, the strained left knee Nikola Mirotic suffered late in the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks would keep him sidelined, and it appears the Bulls are likely taking the cautious approach with their valuable reserve.
Mirotic was walking very gingerly through the Advocate Center with a wrap around his left knee after the Bulls’ film session, and coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t ready to make any kind of declarations when speaking to the media.
The Bulls emerged with a 2-0 series lead but a couple unexpected bumps and bruises.
“We'll see. It's going to be a few days,” Thibodeau said. “We want to see how he responds to treatment and then we'll go from there.”
With Game 3 on Thursday, it gives the Bulls a couple extra days to evaluate Mirotic, who sustained the injury when diving on the floor for a loose ball and actually wound up in a mini-altercation with Bucks center Zaza Pachulia, resulting in double technical and a Pachulia ejection.
But it wouldn’t be a safe bet to assume Mirotic will play in Milwaukee Thursday, and he hasn’t had his usual effect in his first two playoff games, totaling 13 points in 39 minutes on 35 percent shooting, as the length of the Bucks’ big men has given him problems — and the Bulls have relied more on Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler for scoring (the two account for 48.4 percent of the Bulls’ scoring through two games).
Mirotic underwent electric stimulation on the knee, and presumably was checked for a concussion after a collision during the same play. Thibodeau indicated Mirotic went through the league-mandated checkpoints and was cleared.
“I don't want to put a timetable on it,” Thibodeau said. “We don't know. It's a strain so you don't know how it'll respond. Just get treatment. He'll be in there two, three times a day. We'll just see how it feels.”
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The altercation with Mirotic was the third one of the game, as both teams were unusually chippy throughout.
Bucks big man John Henson ran over Bulls guard Aaron Brooks running downcourt in the first quarter, which started the festivities and it carried on for the rest of the game.
Nobody would say the game was dirty, although you could get a sense from the Bulls players that the Bucks toed a little closer to that line than the Bulls would’ve liked. Pachulia was hit with a technical earlier in the second half when an elbow caught Mirotic in the top of the head while jostling for position on a rebound.
It wasn’t a surprise after Bucks coach Jason Kidd wanted his team to be more physical after their Game 1 loss.
“It’s a tough game to officiate,” Thibodeau said. “We have the best officials in the world. I can say that based on the international experience I have now. It’s not easy to officiate. For the most part, oftentimes you replay plays four and five times and you’re still not sure. These guys have to do it on the spot. They’ve done a good job. Playoffs are physical. A lot of it is judgment. We’ll see.”
Mirotic’s teammates were surprised at him being able to handle the increased physicality of the series, as it’ll only ramp up as the familiarity and thus the contempt, increases.
“It was rough. But actually, it’s more physical overseas a little bit,” said Rose of Mirotic. “I think that he’s used to it. It probably just took him by surprise that he (Pachulia) did it so blatant. He’ll be all right.”