Whether you like it or not, Milwaukee's eight game losing streak is over, as win number 14 came in a 108-105 effort against the Lakers tonight. With the 76ers losing their 26th straight game tonight in Houston, the Bucks only ''lead'' Philly by one game in the race for the best lottery odds. It may be stressful times right now in the hearts and minds of Bucks nation, but let's try and set that aside for however long it takes you to read this. Can we try and do that?
Yeah, I couldn't either. Oh well.
The Lakers started out quickly, shaking off a series of unforced turnovers to knock down a bunch of shots while Milwaukee was still trying to work themselves into a rhythm. Once the Bucks began to remember that they had a basketball game to play tonight, every Laker outside of Jordan Hill (28p/16r(!)) seemed to struggle a little bit more with their shots. Some of it was just a mere regression back to the mean, but the Bucks also did a much better job getting out to shooters and at least trying to contest shots. The shorthanded Lakers didn't have much outside of Hill and Nick Young (17 points, at least 4 swaggy moments) in terms of consistent offense threats, so getting out and making sure the complementary guys didn't get hot saved the Bucks from future headaches.
It also helps to go up against a terrible defensive team like the Lakers. Granted they're missing Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, but there were multiple stretches where the Lakers' best defense was just to foul whomever had just blown by them. That led to 34 free throw attempts for Milwaukee, and they converted 24 of those. In a close game between pretty awful teams, the ten point margin Milwaukee had over L.A. at the free throw line made all the difference. Thanks, Lakers defense!
- Brandon Knight finished the season averaging 33 points against the Lakers. That's pretty good, right? After a couple of awful games against the Kings and Clippers, Knight was able to get himself going early in both halves, both attacking the rim and finding his stroke en route to a 30 point night on 12-21 shooting. Good for him. I like points.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo had arguably his most tidy and efficient performance in weeks, totaling 10p/7r/3s, most of which came in the first half. He also had one of his better defensive performances of late, showing improved focus on the ball while being his usual active self off it as well. Most amusingly: there was one instance in which Nick Young decided to do some swaggy dribbling breakdown at the top of the key that everyone knew was going to turn into a long jumper. Giannis wasn't really falling for any of the moves, and decided to take one half-step back, possibly to goat Young into pulling the trigger. It worked, and Giannis quickly lunged forward, stuck his tree limb out, and neatly stopped Young's shot dead in it's tracks. It was lovely and I cried a little bit. I'm sure you did, too.
- Sadly for Giannis, he stepped on Young's foot in the fourth quarter, turning his ankle and leaving him in need of some help getting off the floor. The Bucks said that it was a sprained right ankle and he did not return. We'll obviously have to wait and see how the ankle behaves overnight, but by the end of Giannis' trip to the locker room he was already walking much better than when he first got helped up. Still, it was kind of a bummer to see such a solid night end so abruptly.
- Ramon Sessions (22p/5a), Khris Middleton (14p), John Henson (10p/7r), and Jeff Adrien (8p/9r/1 billion toughness points) provided assistance in a lot of different areas tonight. Sessions drew ALL of the fouls (11-14 from the line); Middleton did his usual job of being efficient in knocking down shots; Adrien got beasty in the paint to keep plays alive or finish them off; and Henson provided some silly fun length and energy when it was needed. I'll stop short at calling it a balanced effort--because the game itself was pretty damn ugly--but it was kind of fun to see more than just two or three guys making a difference.
- Like I said (shoutout to our fallen homie Ersan right there) earlier, this game brings Milwaukee closer to Philly in the standings, which almost everyone who frequents this site would consider a cause for a little extra anxiety. Though wins aren't high priority right now, this was one of maybe three "winnable games" left on Milwaukee's schedule, so barely sneaking this win out against the ''easiest opponent remaining'' isn't the absolute worst thing in the world. It's not fun for your intestines, but I can't imagine more than two wins is out there for Milwaukee to have a chance at snagging. We'll see how the final 10 games plays out. Quick, let's lock arms like those cool college kids do.