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Milwaukee vs. Los Angeles: Bucks Fade Lakers, 115-101

No Giannis? No problem

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

In a marquee matchup of a Giannis-less Bucks vs. the LeBron-less Lakers, the energy was palpable at Fiserv Forum. Okay, I kid, I kid.

The Bucks would quickly build up a 13 point advantage, only to see it quickly dissipate in the second quarter. Why? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Milwaukee simply did not have any answer for him this period. When the quarter came to an end, he was sitting at 21 points in 12 minutes. It helped thrust the Lakers right back into the midst of things, trailing Milwaukee 61-58 into the locker room.

11 third quarter points from Khris Middleton would be the leading ingredient towards the Bucks building up a 15 point lead going into the fourth. However, the Lakers would continue to chip away, enough where it made Bucks fans nervous. Thankfully, an Eric Bledsoe 3-pointer around the three minute mark would re-ignite the crowd and prove to be enough for the Bucks to coast to victory.

Khris Middleton led the efforts for the Bucks, filling in for Giannis’ usual 30+ points. He’d tally 30 points, 10 boards, and six assists, which netted him a +24 on the night. Brook Lopez contributed soundly with 28 points of his own, while Nikola Mirotic poured in 23.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the man all night long for the Lakers. He completed his evening with a game-high 35 points.

Three Observations

All-Star Khris Middleton came up big when called on.

Once Giannis Antetokounmpo was ruled out of this one, all eyes were on Khris Middleton. There’ve been a few times this season when he hasn’t stepped up as well as we had hoped, but last night was a different scenario. 12-of-20 from the floor and 4-of-7 from deep, he etched his name into the score sheet with a very team friendly 30 points, culminating in a +24. He seemed much more comfortable being the No. 1 guy in the offense than we’ve seen from him in past Giannis-less games, and that’s huge for this team and his confidence. With a strong chance that Antetokounmpo could sit out again tonight vs. the Cavs, this performance means that much more.

Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic came up big as well.

I can’t give all the credit to Middleton on this one. Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic had their fingerprints all over this one as well. Lopez nearly tied Middleton’s team-high of 30 points, finishing just a tick below at 28. Splash Mountain fulfilled his nickname quite well, pulling up and connecting from deep on five occasions — and I mean deep. I counted at least two, perhaps three (or more) instances where Lopez caught the ball straightaway from the rim and was at least a foot behind the arc. No hesitation either. Nikola Mirotic also had a similar mantra, splashing home several threes. Fingers crossed that his 23 point night starts developing into a pattern.

Man, was that fun to watch KCP ball it up.

I talked about this in my Rapid Recap as the Stat That Stood Out, but KCP’s second quarter stood out on my Brandon Jennings Scale. For those who missed it, the Brandon Jennings Scale is what I use to measure a player’s scoring stretch in any given quarter. If you remember, Jennings dropped 29 in the third quarter of his 55-point performance vs. Golden State. Last night, Caldwell-Pope poured in 21 in the second quarter vs. the Bucks, which is enough to trigger the scale. I don’t care if it was the opposing team. It’s always fun to watch a player ball it up. As long as the Bucks get the win, I won’t have any sour feelings — and thankfully, they pulled it out last night.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • While Middleton, Lopez, and Mirotic all had some positive nights, it was a little bit of a frustrating evening for Eric Bledsoe. The Kentucky product shot just 4-of-12 from the floor and 1-of-6 from the perimeter. He also missed five free throws. However, his lone connection from deep came late in the fourth quarter and ultimately was what propelled the Bucks to victory. I’m not too worried about this game for him.
  • Recently, Pat Connaughton has been letting it fly. He attempted another five 3-pointers off the bench last night. Unfortunately, he’d just hit one of them. However, he still contributed with a 13 point performance, which, for a guy off the bench of his caliber, is quite respectable. Also, did you know this?

To which Connaughton responded:

Well played, Planet Pat.

  • I want to go back to the first quarter for this next bullet point. Check out this marvelous ball movement:

I know we’ve grown so used to this by now, but man, this never gets old. Beautiful. Wonderful. Glorious.

  • Last night, Milwaukee secured its second straight season series swap of the Lakers. The last time the Bucks swept Los Angeles in back-to-back season series? 1980-82.
  • The Bucks are now 18-9 vs. the Western Conference this season. Before last night’s game, they had already matched last season’s win total against the Western Conference. Oh yeah ,and there are still a couple games remaining. Pretty wild.