'It was the right time' as Middleton takes major step forward in another Bucks win
Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer feels it was the right time to increase Khris Middleton's playing time as he scored a joint season-high 24 points in their 134-123 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.
Middleton retuned to the starting line-up for the first time since December 15, having 11 assists to go with his 24 points on five-of-nine shooting from the field with 13-of-14 from the free-throw line.
The Bucks wing played a joint season-high 31 minutes, marking the first time he has exceeded 30 minutes on court since December, having had an injury-interrupted season.
Middleton missed the first 20 games of the season with a wrist injury, before being sidelined with a knee problem in December and January. His increase in minutes came after putting together a run of games and coincided with Jrue Holiday (sore neck) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (non-COVID-19 illness) being out.
"It felt like it was the right time for [Middleton] to get up to the 30-minute plateau, with Jrue and Giannis not playing," Budenholzer told reporters.
"Just a lot of things. Eleven assists, being a playmaker and doing a little bit of everything, he set a good tone for us early.
"We were fortunate to have him come off the bench for us for a good long stretch, and he’s going to continue to do those things where he's always been, in our starting lineup."
Middleton is averaging 21.8 minutes per game this season, with 13.2 points well down on his 20.4 average in the Bucks' title-winning 2020-21 season where he also averaged 6.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
The Bucks showcased their depth of offensive options despite missing their All-Star duo, as Brook Lopez top-scored with 26 points, while Jevon Carter added 24 and Jae Crowder contributed 15 off the bench.
Crowder only joined the Bucks last month from the Phoenix Suns, having agreed to sit out the 2022-23 season until a trade was found. Tuesday's game was his seventh game for Milwaukee, recording his best yet points return.
"It was good for him," Budenholzer said. "That's a silver lining to a couple of guys not playing, he got to play a lot of minutes, he got a good rhythm, he made some shots, he got to the free-throw line.
"Defensively he's locked in. He's doing everything we ask. He's got an edge on the defensive end."
The Bucks lead the NBA with a 47-18 record, having won 18 of their past 19 games.