On the back of point guard Eric Bledsoe, the Milwaukee Bucks were able to grind out a 131-120 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at the Staples Center. It was a tale of two halves for the Bucks, but they elevated their game in clutch time. That’s what elite teams do. Here are three observations from Milwaukee’s 10th straight road win.
Eric Bledsoe was in savage mode.
He’s really the main reason why Milwaukee was able to steal the game from the hands of the Lakers. He put up 31 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and committed only one turnover. With the Bucks struggling to get much going early in the third quarter, Bledsoe decided to take matters into his own hands. He was slicing and dicing his way to the basket and converting a handful of acrobatic layups. Not only was he fantastic on offense, he was lockdown on defense as per usual. The turnaround in his play from last season has been truly remarkable.
Giannis Antetokounmpo just didn’t look right out there.
He didn’t come out of the gates aggressive and looked a bit off on how he was handling the offense when the ball was in his hands. He played 33 minutes, and while it did not look like he was favoring his knees at all during the game, he just didn’t look like “Giannis.” Even with the “struggle,” he piled up 16 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, and three blocked shots. Lakers’ big man Mike Muscala got switched onto Giannis for a possession, and you already know how that ended. He never stood a chance.
It was quite the rollercoaster game for Ersan Ilyasova.
He had a horrible first half that included a few wide-open bricks and questionable defense. It was a bit surprising to see head coach Mike Budenholzer ride it out with how he was playing, but by all means, I trust in the Bud. However, Ersan was much better on both ends in the second half. He started hitting perimeter jump shots and drawing charges in crunch time. In 24 minutes he added 12 points but finished a team-high plus-18. Further evidence that last night’s game was drunk.
As for Los Angeles, LeBron James dropped 31 points, seven rebounds, and 10 assists in 38 minutes. He always does well against the Bucks, regardless of what uniform he’s in. Brandon Ingram made his first nine shots from the field and finished with 31 points. He had a couple of nice drives to the basket for dunks, including the baptism of Brook Lopez. A lot of his jumpers were from midrange and heavily contested, but he still knocked them down.
- How about Malcolm Brogdon? He’s been phenomenal on Milwaukee’s road trip thus far. He scored 21 points while sinking 8-of-13 shots from the floor. He was nearly unstoppable when he was driving to the basket last night. He’s a keeper.
- Khris Middleton hit 4-of-8 shots for 18 points while also adding five rebounds and six assists. It was not his best performance, as there were a few possessions where he took matters into his own hands and forced up a tough shot. Him getting to the free throw line nine times did help his bottom line, but his defense was spotty as well, surrendering multiple and-ones. He even was on the bench in crunch time, too.
- Brook Lopez scored 11 points against his former team, and the Lakers did a solid job defending him throughout Friday’s game, specifically LeBron James. He was physical with Lopez from the opening tip, and it flummoxed him just a bit.
- Nikola Mirotic made 4-of-7 shots for 11 points off the bench for the Bucks. Even though he’s still getting acclimated with the system, his marksmanship from deep has not skipped a beat. His release is so fast, it’s nearly impossible to defend.
- In 25 minutes off the bench, Pat Connaughton helped boost the Bucks’ activity on both ends. His basketball IQ is very underrated, and his feel for the court helps open things up for Milwaukee. He finished with nine points, five rebounds, and four assists while playing rock solid defense. Planet Pat back?