ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — Milwaukee Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy was back at practice Monday and expects to play Tuesday against Indiana.
“I had a good day at practice, it feels pretty good,” Dunleavy said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to play tomorrow night. Unless something acts up tomorrow after a full day of practice, I’m hopeful to play.”
Bucks coach Scott Skiles was away from the team Monday due to an illness. Assistant coach Jim Boylan ran practice, but Skiles is expected to coach the team Tuesday against the Pacers.
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For Dunleavy, who suffered a bone bruise on Nov. 30 when a Timberwolves player clipped the back of his knee on a box out, the recovery process has been frustrating. The term “day-to-day” is tossed around quite a bit in sports, but his injury truly was. Most days he’d try to test the knee, only to find he still wasn’t ready.
“The injury was one of those where you don’t know if it was going to be a couple days or a couple of weeks,” Dunleavy said. “I’m still getting over it, but I feel good enough to go out and play.”
After missing the Boston game the night after suffering the injury, Dunleavy tried to play against New Orleans on Dec. 3, but hasn’t played since, missing a total of seven games.
“At the time (of the injury) it bothered me, but I kept playing through it,” Dunleavy said. “Then the next day we had a back-to-back at home and I just couldn’t go. Then in New Orleans I felt better and played through that but then the next day, it was bothering me again. You couldn’t be taking one step forward and two steps back.”
Without Dunleavy and backup point guard Beno Udrih, who was also injured in Minnesota, the Bucks once potent bench has lacked punch. Before the two were injured, Dunleavy and Udrih’s ball movement was key in the second unit’s success.
“It’s good to have him back,” Boylan said. “He certainly helps us in a lot of different areas. Shooting the ball, moving the ball, it’s great to have him back. Hopefully Beno is not too far behind.”
The bug moving through the Bucks locker room appears to have hit the man in charge. Skiles sent Boylan a text Monday morning letting him know he wasn’t feeling well and the two hashed out a practice plan together.
Tough week ahead: Saturday the Bucks struggled on the back-end of a back-to-back, now Milwaukee faces two of them this week.
The Bucks will host Indiana Tuesday at the BMO Harris Bradley Center before heading to Memphis Wednesday to face the Grizzlies in a nationally televised game on ESPN. After a day off Thursday, Milwaukee is in Boston Friday to play the Celtics for the fourth time this season. The week wraps up with a home game against Cleveland Saturday.
“We are playing some good teams so it is a big week for us before we get into the Christmas holiday,” Boylan said. “It would be nice to put together a couple of good games.”
In the team’s first meeting, the Bucks jumped on Indiana early and cruised to a 99-85 victory on Nov. 15. The Pacers were struggling at the time, still learning to play without injured star Danny Granger. While Granger is still out of the lineup, Indiana is playing much better basketball heading into Tuesday’s match-up.
Since losing to Milwaukee, Indiana is 10-5 and have caught the Bucks for second place in the Central Division, one game behind Chicago. After Monday’s practice, Boylan warned the team to be ready for a team that won’t be too happy with the way it played in Milwaukee the first time around.
“I’m sure they are going to come in with some energy,” Boylan said. “We have to be ready. Hopefully we are getting ready both physically and mentally.”