It’s been a rough ride to start the season for the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, but they catch a break by facing a Los Angles Lakers team apparently one game before LeBron James plans to return to the court. With reinforcements of their own likely, Giannis Antetokounmpo and company can start this five-game home stretch off with a positive by taking down this aged Lakers roster.
Where We’re At
Milwaukee has been in a rut this season without most of their star players, sans Giannis, and I’m curious whether the 100-120 loss to the Atlanta Hawks will be the nadir of the season, or yet another bump in a long road back to full health. That game featured an abhorrent performance on both the offensive and defensive glass, while Trae Young carved up every type of coverage they tried to throw his way. Frankly, the Bucks aren’t Bud’s Bucks right now. They’re 23rd in defensive rebounding rate, allowing the 15th highest frequency of shots at the rim, and are protecting the rim at the 17th best rate (all per Cleaning The Glass). A lot of those issues could be bolstered by Brook Lopez’s return, but part of it is just asking so much of Giannis right now. In addition, the offense isn’t clicking, with the fourth lowest percentage of shots at the rim, and few attempts from floater range either. Besides Giannis, the team isn’t getting into the paint and has been increasingly reliant on hot 3-point shooting. That is slowly turning around, but they need to diversify their shot diet, something the return of Khris Middleton should aid by infusing another primary ball handler and shot creator into the mix.
Also, I believe the City Edition jerseys will be making their debut.
As for Los Angeles, while they have been without LeBron James for much of this year, the real scary fact for them is that their defense has been bleh, which wasn’t the case even without LeBron or Anthony Davis last year. They’re 20th in defensive points per 100 possessions allowed and 24th offensively in that same category, per CTG. As of 11/16, among the 14 teams with a negative efficiency differential (points scored per 100 poss minus points allowed per 100 poss), they’re one of just three with a winning record (Dallas is 9-4; Charlotte is 8-7). The Russell Westbrook trade hasn’t paid the dividends they hoped (who could’ve seen that coming...), which doesn’t bode well given he was supposed to help carry the regular season load. One alarming stat for me, Westbrook is at just 55% at the rim, after hitting 60+% their for the last three seasons. They’re fresh off getting pounded 121-103 against the Chicago Bulls on Monday, so we’ll see how they hold up against this Milwaukee team.
George Hill is probable for this one while Donte and Brook remain out. In addition to James, Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves are out for the Lakers. Anthony Davis is probable.
Player to Watch
This one is pretty obvious, with Khris Middleton listed as probable and likely to make his debut after having COVID-19 and missing the last eight games. I imagine he’ll be on a minutes limit, but if nothing else it’ll hopefully spare us too many non-Giannis and Jrue Holiday lineups. Look for a slow ramp-up, but here’s hoping his midrange work can provide some much needed offensive jolt.
Game 15: Against Los Angeles, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
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)