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Quick-healing Khris Middleton hopes to gives Bucks a boost

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ST. FRANCIS, Wis. (AP) Khris Middleton has proven to be a quick healer.

One of Milwaukee’s top all-around players plans to make his season debut on Wednesday against the streaking Miami Heat, so long as his surgically-repaired left hamstring feels fine following shoot-around and pregame warmups.

The Bucks’ leading scorer last season, Middleton is about a month ahead of the six-month timeline that the Bucks initially thought would be needed for the torn hamstring to heal. He returns just as new acquisitions Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes join a team that is just 4-12 since Jan. 4.

Milwaukee said last week that Middleton was cleared to play. He will be limited initially to about 15-20 minutes a game, coach Jason Kidd said Tuesday.

At 22-28, the Bucks were 10th in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday’s action, one game back of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot.

“We’re going to look at him to save the season,” forward Jabari Parker said after practice with a smile. “Put pressure on him.”

Middleton took the ribbing in stride.

“I wouldn’t say that at all,” he said with a laugh.

Middleton is a scoring threat in a 6-foot-8 frame and he can help defend on the perimeter. The Bucks are giving up 10.7 3-pointers on 29.7 attempts to opponents, among the highest averages in the league. Milwaukee hasn’t held an opponent to less than 100 points since a 98-94 win over Oklahoma City on Jan. 2.

“With the weeks practicing, playing 1-on-1s and lifting, I haven’t thought about my hamstring for one bit, which is good,” Middleton said. “The way I went down, it was a freak incident … just one of those things.”

Middleton scored a team-high 18.2 points per game last season. He hurt the hamstring while working out in late September, about a week before the start of training camp.

Middleton will rejoin a team in which Giannis Antetokounmpo has blossomed into an All-Star. Parker is averaging a career-best 20.2 points per game. At his best last year, Middleton was the Bucks’ best offensive option in the closing minutes of tight games with his ability to hit from the perimeter or drive the lane.

It’s unclear how much playing time Hibbert and Hawes might each get after being acquired from Charlotte last week for backup center Miles Plumlee. The 7-foot-2 Hibbert, who has been bothered by knee issues this year, is known as a rim protector, while the 7-1 Hawes can stretch the floor with his outside shot.

The Bucks already rotate two experienced players in the middle in defensive-minded John Henson and Greg Monroe, whose strength is offense. Seven-foot-1 rookie Thon Maker is also starting to see more consistent minutes.

The Bucks did gain financial flexibility in unloading Plumlee, who was in the first year of a four-year contract worth about $52 million after returning to the Bucks in the offseason as a restricted free agent. Hibbert is a free agent after this season, while Hawes has a player option next season worth about $6 million.

Russell Westbrook scores most points ever in triple-double, 57

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Russell Westbrook led a double-digit comeback in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Been there done, that.

Westbrook hit a defining buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Been there done, that.

Westbrook posted a historic triple-double. Been there, done that.

All three in one game?

That’s a new level for Westbrook, who lifted the Thunder to a 114-106 win over the Magic tonight while posting an incredible stat line: 57 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.

James Harden scored 53 in a triple-double just this season, and Westbrook has already one-upped that record.

This MVP race is one for the ages.

Russell Westbrook’s 3-pointer caps incredible Thunder comeback, send Magic game to OT (video)

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The Thunder trailed the Magic by 21 points in the second half and 14 points midway through the fourth quarter.

Russell Westbrook capped the incredible comeback with this 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

This becoming the norm for Oklahoma City.

NBA: Timberwolves got away with key late foul in win over Pacers

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Paul George expressed extreme dismay after the Pacers’ loss to the Timberwolves last night — the latest cause for concern in Indiana with its biggest star just one season from free agency.

But perhaps George wouldn’t have sounded so disillusioned if that game featured correct officiating down the stretch.

Minnesota’s Kris Dunn got away with fouling Jeff Teague by disrupting the Pacers guard’s speed/quickness/balance rhythm with 21.6 seconds left, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Dunn (MIN) makes contact to Teague’s (IND) arm that affects his SQBR and causes him to lose control of the ball.

Because the Timberwolves were in the penalty, a correct would’ve sent Teague — who’s making 86% of his free throws this season and 84% for his career — to the line. He would’ve had two attempts to build on Indiana’s two-point lead.

Instead, he forced an off-balance shot, which Minnesota rebounded. Ricky Rubio drew a shooting foul on a 3-pointer on the other end, and his three free throws lifted the Timberwolves to a 115-114 win.

The two-minute report featured a few other missed calls: George getting away with pushing off then Wiggins getting away with fouling George on a possession where George missed anyway, Andrew Wiggins getting away with a travel on a possession where Minnesota turned the ball over anyway. But those were effectively wash’s. Dunn’s uncalled foul was the one of consequence — especially if it contributes, even in a small way, to George’s exit from the Pacers.

Edmond Sumner declares for NBA draft despite torn ACL

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Edmond Sumner has grown about five inches since high school.

That has helped turn the 6-foot-5 Xavier point guard into an intriguing NBA prospect — but also seemingly contributed to physical complications. Sumner missed nearly all of his freshman year with knee tendinitis. Then, after a promising second season and start to his third, he tore his ACL in January.

Still, he’s entering the NBA draft.

Sumner:

Rick Broering of Musketeer Report:

Like with Duke’s Harry Giles, medical testing will be huge with Sumner. But at least Giles ended the season on the court. Sumner might not be healthy at all during the pre-draft process.

Sumner looked like a borderline first-round pick before the injury. This probably pushes him into the second round.

His long strides provide impressive speed and quickness, and he’s still shifty. Add quality court vision, and his ability to drive by defenders is even more valuable.

A 6-foot-8 wingspan and good lateral mobility also help make him a quality defender.

But it’s also concerning that so much of his positives could be undermined by his knee issues, especially considering his unreliable jumper. If Sumner can’t move like he did before getting hurt, I don’t see how he sticks in the NBA.

If Sumner’s knees check out, it’s worth rolling the dice on him and hoping his jumper develops. He might even be OK without shooting range, though that’d lower his ceiling considerably.

Again, though, the first thing is examining his knees.