Central Notes: Middleton, Mitchell, Rubio, Livers

Khris Middleton returned to the court Friday for the first time since the playoffs, and the Bucks responded with a season-high 129 points, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Middleton hadn’t played since suffering an MCL sprain to his left knee in the first-round series against Chicago. He also had wrist surgery in July.

“It felt really good to be back out there with the guys competing, playing,” Middleton said. “Just a range of emotions. Been through a lot these last couple months — happy, sad, anxious, nervous. To finally get out there and play and get a lot of those nerves past me, it felt pretty good.”

Milwaukee has the league’s second-best record, but ranked 17th in offensive efficiency without one of its most reliable perimeter scorers. Middleton reminded Bucks fans what they’ve been missing with 17 points and seven assists in 27 minutes Friday night.

“He makes the game look so easy,” Jrue Holiday said. “The way he plays, it’s kind of like nobody is out there, just him. It’s like a drill. It’s definitely good to see him back out there, wish we could’ve got the win for him. But he makes the game look effortless.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Donovan Mitchell feels like his career has been revived after an offseason trade to the Cavaliers, per Brian Dulik of The Associated Press. Mitchell is averaging 28.7 PPG through 21 games while shooting career highs of 49.4% from the field and 43.5% from three-point range. “This is no shot at my guys in Utah, but I’m having fun again and that goes a long way,” he said. “This group has a bunch of guys who want to learn and who want to be great. Sometimes a new beginning is all you need. I’ve fit in here because I’ve filled a void.”
  • Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio was able to play 3-on-3 this week as he recovers from ACL surgery, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “He’s got a doctor’s appointment coming up soon, where we’re looking to see where he’s at,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
  • Pistons forward Isaiah Livers will miss some time with a shoulder sprain he suffered in Thursday’s game, according to James L. Edwards of The Athletic (Twitter link). Coach Dwane Casey didn’t provide a projected timetable for Livers, who has started the team’s last seven games.
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