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Bucks vs. Lakers Preview: The Season Must Go On

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In the shadow of Jabari Parker’s injury, Milwaukee readies itself for a weak Lakers squad

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

After a crushing loss to the Heat compounded by the loss of Jabari Parker to another torn ACL, the Bucks downward spiral plunged deeper with a noncompetitive showing in the 106-88 defeat. Los Angeles took an L at the hands of the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night in a 121-102 loss.

Bucks Update

The only thing on Bucks’ fans mind is the loss of Jabari Parker to a crippling ACL tear on the same knee he injured a little over two years ago. His injury overshadowed what was otherwise an incredibly pitiful performance for a team coming off of three days rest. Parker’s loss hurts Milwaukee’s scoring ability in the immediate future, and that’s to mention nothing of how this impacts the franchise’s long-term goals going forward, particularly since Khris Middleton’s return to his pre-injury form isn’t a given either.

Lots of questions are swirling around this team, and it’s difficult right now to parcel out the suddenly blurrier franchise outlook from the cavalcade of struggles this team has had the last 15 games or so. Their defense continues to go down the tubes, with Miami destroying them both right beneath the hoop and from the corners. Milwaukee’s defense was prone to give up corner threes in its makeup, but the latest stretch of games has only heightened that deficiency. They’ve allowed 56 corner threes over their last four games (h/t CanadaBucks) and they were allowing almost three more corner threes per game than the second ranked team, Atlanta, before the Heat game.

That unappealing figure is made even worse by the fact teams are shooting 38.4% against Milwaukee in the new year, a figure that many will recall was remarkably low in the early goings of the season. It seems rational to link that higher percentage at least a little bit with the rate at which teams have been able to get corner threes, the closest long-range shot on the court.

Giannis had 22 points last game but looked disinterested, as did the rest of the team. This is a young team whose heads already seemed a bit discombobulated even before they saw their cornerstone teammate crumple to the ground in pain. If a team ever needed a coach with gravitas and the ability to own a locker room, now would be the time.

Jabari Parker is out for Milwaukee for obvious reasons.

Lakers Update

After their feel-good start to the season, Los Angeles has been in a tailspin for the last few months. They’ve dropped to 14th in the Western Conference, barely ahead of the Phoenix Suns, and the go-go laissez-faire offense coach Luke Walton installed is still taking root among the young team, as they’re ranked 24th in offensive efficiency at 103.6.

Their defense is even more putrid, the second worst in the league and just a hair in front of the Denver Nuggets at 110.2. Everyone remembers the Bucks lighting up the Nuggets last week in Denver, and the Lakers’ stinky collection of defenders should give Milwaukee plenty of optimism to reinvigorate their scoring punch. Of course, one could say the same about the Suns’ game last week and we all know what happened after that.

Los Angeles has missed their burgeoning point guard, DeAngelo Russell for several stints this year as he dealt with a knee issue, but he’s listed as probable to go tonight. Their backcourt has been a strength of the team, for the most part due to the amazingly efficient years from perpetual oddity Nick Young and a leading sixth man of the year candidate Lou Williams. Williams in particular could be an interesting matchup if Khris Middleton matches him on the defensive end.

Julius Randle continues to have his moments for the Baby Lakers, but hasn’t blossomed into the playmaking four he flashed for stretches early in the season. Brandon Ingram is still mostly limbs without NBA-level litheness thus far, and his three-point stroke hasn’t quite carried over from college (30.5% on 2.4 attempts per game). One last nugget, the Lakers are second in the league in shots in the non-restricted area of the paint, so expect plenty of little runners and pull-ups.

Los Angeles started their last game with the undersized Tarik Black at center, which should theoretically mean Thon Maker could get some minutes tonight against the downsized frontcourt of the Lakers. He didn’t play against Miami, one would presume because of Whiteside, but Thon also started against Miami in late January with Whiteside on the floor. So who knows, but the absence of Parker would be assuaged at least a tiny bit by continuing to see promising play from the Bucks’ rookie.