After what feels like weeks of build-up, we’ve finally reached the hotly anticipated matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Milwaukee Bucks. While unfortunately both teams had their lengthy streaks (overall wins for Bucks, road wins for LA) snapped, there are still plenty of bragging rights up for grabs in this one.
For the first time in over a month, Bucks fans had to face the somber music following their 120-116 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Despite a furious rally late in the fourth, they couldn’t quite get over the hurdle of a horrific shooting night from anyone with less than 13 letters in their last name. Bucketing just 26.8% of your triples, while the opponent is canning 39% and no one on your team can buy a bucket, turned out it was the perfect recipe for disaster for Milwaukee even as Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in an insane 48 points and 14 boards. The good news is that there’s always another chance to start a streak in the NBA’s lengthy regular season, and to do so against the Lakers would be extra sweet.
So far, it’s only Eric Bledsoe out for Milwaukee.
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton
Khris knows all about the talk of duos across the league, and how he’s rarely mentioned as the second half of a duo alongside Giannis. He’s played like a proper second banana since his return from injury though, and his per-36 points are up over last year, as are his shooting splits. The egg he laid in Dallas has to irk him, going just 4-12 from the field. He’ll need to be tuned in from the tip to help Giannis keep pace with the scoring output of AD and LeBron. He will likely get some looks defending LeBron too. His hands will be full, don’t spill buddy.
Mercifully, the Lakers losing to the Pacers removed any sort of “streak” narrative from clouding over this matchup, but the Lakers have proven a far more prolific regular season team than I anticipated. Their supporting cast, much like the Bucks, is not overwhelmingly spectacular, but it is full of fitting complements to the engine that makes Frank Vogel’s team turn. To date, they’ve gotten a little lucky, outperforming their expected winning percentage by a top mark in the league. However, they’ve got the statistical bona fides.
They’re top five offensively, and just behind the Bucks in terms of defensive rating. With a top five rate at forcing turnovers, Bud’s normally sure-handed team will have to make sure their stick-em is applied properly. The mammoth frontline of LeBron, Davis and McGee starts most games, so I’m quite interested in seeing how Bud doles out the defensive assignments in this one.
On the injury front, Kyle Kuzma is out, Anthony Davis is questionable and Rajon Rondo is probable.
Player to Watch: Anthony Davis
When last we saw Anthony Davis, he was getting decimated by the Bucks as part of a lifeless New Orleans Pelicans squad ensnared by a drama of Davis’ own making. Since getting to LA, he’s fit along swimmingly with LeBron, averaging 27.4 points, 9.3 boards and 2.6 blocks. Him against Giannis will be one feast for the eyes, on both ends of the court. He’s listed as questionable, so here’s hoping he suits up tonight and doesn’t make this an outcome with an asterisk.
Game 29: Against Los Angeles, the Bucks will...
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