Preview: Bucks at Nuggets

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

DENVER — The Milwaukee Bucks head into Denver with a four-game losing streak, but that isn’t the biggest news they will bring into their Friday night matchup with the Nuggets.

Milwaukee shook up its roster a day before the game, dealing center Miles Plumlee to the Charlotte Hornets for centers Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes. To make room for both new arrivals, the Bucks released forward Steven Novak.

The deal comes weeks before the NBA trading deadline and rids Milwaukee of Plumlee’s multiyear contract. The Bucks (21-27) signed him to a four-year, $50 million deal last summer but did not get much in return. He averaged just 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 32 games. Fifteen times, he didn’t play because of a coach’s decision.

“Spencer and Roy are two proven NBA centers who give us additional depth and versatility in the frontcourt,” Bucks general manager John Hammond told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The trade also gives us future cap flexibility as we continue to shape our roster.”

Hawes has a player option for next year, and Hibbert is making $5 million on his one-year deal.

It is unknown how much, if at all, the two will play Friday in Denver.

The Nuggets also have a roster that is in flux, but not because of trades. Denver is a banged-up squad and could be without three key players for the game, including leading scorer Danilo Gallinari.

Gallinari left the Nuggets’ 119-99 loss to Memphis on Wednesday due to a left groin strain. He had an MRI done Thursday and announced on his Facebook page that results showed a first-degree pulled groin muscle. The post states that there is no firm date of his return “but we are very optimistic.”

There was no release by the Nuggets, who did not practice Thursday.

Gallinari scored 14 points against the Grizzlies before leaving in the third quarter.

“I did notice in the first half (he was) kind of fussing with it, stretching it out,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game. “Obviously, there was a point in the second half where he felt it, came out, wanted to go back in and test it one more time and it just wasn’t feeling right.”

In addition to Gallinari’s injury, guard Will Barton has missed two straight games with a left ankle injury and center Nikola Jokic has been sidelined three consecutive games because of a left hip flexor strain.

Barton had an MRI done Wednesday morning, but the Nuggets (21-27) did not announce the results. Barton has missed 13 total games due to injuries to the same ankle.

Without Jokic to anchor the offense, Denver has lost two straight and is entering a tough stretch in its schedule. In the eight remaining games before the All-Star break, the Nuggets will play at San Antonio and Cleveland and host Golden State.

Denver has an opportunity Friday got get a win against a team that is struggling. After falling 104-88 in Utah on Wednesday, the Bucks have lost nine of their last 10.

Leading scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo had been steady before getting held to nine points on 2-of-10 shooting Wednesday.

Even with solid play from Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, the Bucks have struggled to get wins, but there is good news on the horizon. Shooting guard Khris Middleton, who tore his left hamstring in September, could make his season debut after Milwaukee’s current three-game road swing. He has been practicing and might play before the All-Star break.

“I’ve been ready for a while,” Middleton told the Journal Sentinel, “but I’ve got to be smart about it and make sure I’m 100 percent ready to go out there and play.”

The Nuggets hope they get similar news with their injured players. They welcomed the return of point guard Emmanuel Mudiay on Wednesday after he missed five games due to lower back soreness. He had 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds against the Grizzlies. Malone planned on playing him just 20 minutes, but Jameer Nelson’s ejection 4:07 into the game led to Mudiay logging 26 minutes.

“I’m fine,” Mudiay said after the loss. “I was out there moving, so I needed to find out where I was.”