The Milwaukee Bucks lost 113-106 in their first matchup of the season against the Los Angeles Lakers inside Fiserv Forum on Thursday night. Not only was the outcome bad, but having to listen to the TNT broadcast was like pouring salt in the wound.
What Did We Learn?
The Bucks were lethargic on both ends in the defeat and it doomed them early after having a brief first quarter lead. There were countless possessions where the Lakers would catch Milwaukee sleeping and it would give them a multitude of open looks from deep. It seemed like every Los Angeles offensive rebound led to a bucket. If I had a dollar for each time Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was left open, I would be a rich man.
There was also little to no ball movement offensively with a ton of iso/hero ball being played in the first half. The Bucks failed to adjust to how Los Angeles was playing defense and it played right into their hands. It is a miracle that this game was remotely close.
The Bucks also got zero production from their bench, Bobby Portis couldn’t get it going and D.J. Augustin continued his poor play this season. If Milwaukee got any form of production from any of their players off the bench this game would have ended differently. Instead, they got 16 points from five players...combined!
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s performance was frustrating. Antetokounmpo got into a rhythm early in the first quarter but that was it. The Lakers tried to defend him by taking charges and it clearly flustered him. While a dangerous way to defend him, it worked...I guess. Rather than staying calm when the Lakers made their run, Giannis made a ton of poor decisions offensively and countless unforced turnovers (including seven in the first half). His play this season has been uninspiring (by Giannis standards) for the most part and it continued on Thursday. How many more lazy closeouts defensively or unnecessary pull-up jumpers do we need to see? Just incredibly frustrating. He played 35 minutes and scored 25 points but committed nine turnovers compared to three assists. Nine turnovers and three assists. Awful. Giannis is an elite player and should be held to pristine standards on a nightly basis, regardless of the opponent.
Giannis with the block on LeBron. pic.twitter.com/vVtHVKi2AT— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) January 22, 2021
Without Jrue Holiday, this game would have been a boat race. With the Bucks offense stagnant for much of the game, Holiday went to work and constantly knifed his way into the paint for easy baskets. He also defended LeBron James throughout and held his own. It didn’t matter though, as James was hitting everything he put up. It was encouraging to see Jrue attack offensively as he did in their last game against the Brooklyn Nets. He scored 22 points and seven assists in 38 minutes while making 10-of-18 shots. It didn’t matter who was in front of him, they couldn’t stop him from getting to his spots. He is fearless in the paint and even bullied Montrezl Harrell in the second half for a bucket. He was the one bright spot in a forgettable game. The one knock I had on him was the number of times he got lost ball watching defensively that gave LeBron a ton of open looks from deep.
There’s no way around it, Brook Lopez was not great against the Lakers. While he did finish with 13 points, the majority of those baskets came with the Bucks chasing points in the fourth. His lowlight of the game was at the end of the third quarter where not only did he got stuffed by Kyle Kuzma at the rim, but he got the rebound and instead of kicking it out, put up a shot that got sent back by LeBron. He also put up an ill-advised three-pointer in the fourth quarter with 20 seconds left on the shot clock that hit the bottom of the backboard. It was ugly. There were multiple instances where it looked like Lopez gave zero effort on both ends of the floor. Discouraging, to say the least.
- The Lakers threw the kitchen sink at Khris Middleton defensively and it paid dividends. Middleton had to GRIND for every bucket and still scored 20 points while dishing out seven assists and committing only one turnover. While he shot only 6-of-15 from the field, I was encouraged with his playmaking in the loss.
Khris Middleton nutmegs LeBron with a bounce pass in transition pic.twitter.com/RhQon84R2S— CJ Fogler 6'7" IQ 269 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) January 22, 2021
- Donte DiVincenzo added 10 points but his momentum as a playmaker from earlier in the season has came to a screeching halt. Donte is great when he is catching and shooting, not when he is creating for himself.
- If you Google “Milwaukee Bucks owner,” a picture of LeBron James appears. When has he not torched the Bucks throughout his career? It’s a given that he is going to dominate whenever he steps on the floor, but it seemed like he upped the ante in this one. I mean, some of these three-pointers he was hitting were ridiculous. He finished with 34 points overall and made 6-of-10 from deep.
- The Lakers made 19 threes compared to only nine for the Bucks.
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had too many points. He went 7-of-10 from deep...I mean, come on. When was the last time he did that?