MILWAUKEE — After missing nearly one month with a fractured left thumb, Nikola Mirotic is expected to be available to play in Game 1 of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks‘ first-round series against the Detroit Pistons.
Mirotic participated in the Bucks’ full practice — including a scrimmage — without pain on Friday. He also participated in a non-contact practice Saturday, with his thumb lightly taped during both practices.
“Not much soreness, as we expected,” Mirotic said Saturday. “I should be ready to go.”
Mirotic said that since his injury, he has been hitting the weight room a lot and doing plenty of cardio to stay in game shape.
“Niko has been traveling with us,” Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe said. “He has been around practice. We have been feeling his energy. Him just being around has been big for us. I think he’s doing pretty good.”
Mirotic, who was a standout for the New Orleans Pelicans in last year’s playoffs, was targeted by the Bucks at the February trade deadline as part of a concerted effort to add veterans with playoff experience. Bucks general manager Jon Horst believed that Mirotic’s track record as a strong 3-point shooter fit well with the team’s five-out system.
“This is going to be my fourth playoffs in five years,” Mirotic said. “The guys are ready, but the message from our coach is that there’s nothing different in the playoffs. We need to play our same basketball. Play hard. I think we should be fine. We are a very deep team and very hungry.”
Before injuring his thumb in that March 19 game, Mirotic had scored 23 points and seemed to finally be looking comfortable with his new team. On Saturday, he said that he expects to pick up where he left off without much difficulty.
“We have been working all season for this point,” Mirotic said. “Now it’s time to show everybody that we are capable and we are not first because of luck — we worked our ass off.”