After seeing their precious 100-point streak snapped against Charlotte, albeit in a win, and subsequently losing to Miami, Milwaukee got back on track against a Pacers team lacking punch. Malcolm Brogdon left partway through the game while Victor Oladipo sat out entirely, freeing up the Bucks to run rampant over them in the fourth to win 119-100. Giannis had 29 points, 12 boards and six assists in his 28 minutes with Middleton adding 20. Donte got in on the action with 19 of his own in George Hill’s absence.
The Indiana game pales in comparison to the awaiting contest tipping off late Friday evening. Last time the Bucks and Lakers matched up, Milwaukee won 111-104 at Fiserv Forum. After midway through the first, the Bucks led for the rest of the evening; the final score is rather deceiving. Giannis had 34 (including five 3-pointers!) and Hill tacked on 21, but Budenholzer never had to overtax his players beyond their usual season averages. Conversely, Anthony Davis played 43 minutes.
George Hill is questionable for this in; D.J. Wilson is out.
Player to Watch: Khris Middleton
Middleton only needed 15 points in the last game on 10 shots and the Bucks still ran away with it. With Hill potentially nursing an injury, there is some scoring punch that will be needed in his absence, I don’t think Donte will have as easy of a time against this Lakers D as the Pacers. Middleton theoretically has the advantage over any of the Lakers cadre of wing players, and he should be able to find his spots whenever the Bucks’ halfcourt play bogs down.
A surprising defeat against the Memphis Grizzlies is the lone blemish for the Lakers in their last ten contests. They soundly trumped the 76ers 120-107, albeit with Philly missing both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 59 points together and their size was too much for injury-battered Philly, ironic given the Sixers outlook to start the season. So what do the Lakers do well? For one thing: dunk. They are dominating the league with 479 as a team, with Atlanta a distant second.
They’re also a defense that’s smothered opponents throughout the year. Across most shot locations, they’re about middle of the pack in terms of frequency allowed. They don’t lean strongly in taking away one area of the court or the other, but they are near the top five in terms of opponent percentage at the rim and from deep. That’s a healthy combination, and the rim at least, a testament to their length and strength.
Offensively, they’re not chuckers from three, they’re in the bottom ten in terms of percentage of shots from deep. They prefer the rim, third in the league in terms of percentage of shots, which should provide a fitting stress test for Bud’s concrete wall across the paint. They’re the best team in the league finishing there too - dunks tend to be fitting partners for elite shooting percentages. Their beastly roster thrives on offensive boards and takeaways, two areas the Bucks pride themselves on countering. Which side will win out? As they say, that’s why they play the game.
Both Alex Caruso and Anthony Davis are lister as probable.
Player to Watch: Anthony Davis
Davis remains one of the most devastating pick-and-roll threats in the league. His swiftness despite his massive stature is eye-popping, and Giannis will have his hands fill keeping Davis from running down the lane for dunks and finishes. Additionally, his pop and shot making ability set him apart from most other bigs the Bucks face during the season. He’s sitting at 27.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per-36 on the season.
Game 63: Against Los Angeles, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)