Though LeBron James sat this one out after surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the NBA’s all-time scoring record, the Bucks took down his Lakers for their ninth straight victory behind Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 38-point, 23-shot performance.
A back-and-forth first, punctuated by some vicious Giannis throwdowns, featured shotmaking at a decent clip from both sides early on. While LA got on a 17-6 run that helped them separate slightly, it was only by six at most, and the period ended with them ahead 31-26.
The Lakers briefly increased their lead to eleven against some deeper-bench Bucks lineups early in the second who really struggled to shoot. Milwaukee couldn’t create much offense outside of Giannis FTs until Khris Middleton started cooking. Still, Los Angeles matched those buckets tit for tat, and they carried a 58-50 edge into intermission.
After some of their threes finally started to fall once play resumed, and after scuffling a bit to get it to a one-possession game, the Bucks embarked on a 10-2 run midway through the third and grabbed their first lead since it was 20-17. Anthony Davis picked up his fourth foul and the Milwaukee run extended to 25-10. Holiday and Giannis scored 14 and 12 in the quarter respectively, as the Bucks led 88-81 after three on the strength of a 38-point frame.
AD picked up his fifth less than four minutes in, but the Lakers still tied the game at 94 with eight remaining. Undeterred, the Bucks immediately snapped back with a quick 8-1 run in just under a minute. Milwaukee had to put in more work after LA cut it to four with under five minutes remaining, and none other than Giannis spearheaded that effort, slicing through the Laker interior on his way to a game-high 38.
With Denver’s loss in Orlando, Milwaukee is in sole possession of the league’s second-best record, just one game behind Boston. Hopefully, the Bucks won’t take advantage of the LA nightlife too much in celebration, as they’ll tip off in about twelve hours for a back-to-back against the Clippers, who we already know will be without Kawhi Leonard.
Like most, the Lakers had no answers for Giannis. Even while employing The Wall (and not a very sturdy one), LA had little recourse but to foul The Greek Freak early on, sending him to the charity stripe ten times in the first half. Once they stopped being as physical, Giannis carved up their zone and even sank some pretty jumpers from that short midrange area he’s struggled from this year. He was just a bucket shy of a fourth 40+ point outing in the last two weeks.
Khris Middleton sparked the offense with his usual exploits. Midway through the second as the offense stalled completely, Middleton kept the deficit in single digits with eight points in the period. He poured in 12 on eight shots after half and ended with 22 points in 25 minutes off the bench, his highest workload since returning nine games ago and playing most of the fourth quarter.
Jrue Holiday keyed the Bucks’ comeback. For perhaps the first time this season, let’s complete the Big Three, shall we? Though he finished with 18 on 8/16 shooting and 2/7 from three, those two treys and fourteen of those points came as Milwaukee made its move to take control of the game. That came after a mere two points on five shots in the opening half, so good on him for the resilience.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- Another Holiday circus shot over the backboard in the first quarter!
Jrue Holiday made this shot over the backboard pic.twitter.com/VAaMJsvhvI— Bucks Nation (@BucksNationCP) February 10, 2023
- MarJon Beauchamp saw first-quarter minutes, perhaps in Joe Ingles’ (a load management scratch last night) stead. He struggled a bit getting a corner three blocked and picking up an off-ball offensive foul that negated a Brook Lopez kick out three. Those and a few other screwups got him lifted early in the second, and he did not return.
- Sandro Mamukelashvili started the second quarter and made a quick impact on the boards, made a few nice passes, hit a three, and even stripped AD under the rim. Unlike Beauchamp, he did return in the second half and generally looked good, even picking up a foul on a nice drive inside. He was +4 in twelve minutes with six points and three rebounds.
- After using ten players (out of twelve with the team and healthy) in the first half, Bud cut that number to more like eight in the second half, with just over four minutes of Jevon Carter—who had an evening to forget (0/2 in 14 total minutes)—to make it nine.
- Austin Reaves is a nice player. While Dennis Schröder led the Lakers with 25 and AD finished with 23 (on 9/22 shooting, credit to Lopez and Giannis for that), he looked like their best player at times, hitting his first three from downtown. He wound up with 18 on eleven attempts, and even though he hesitated, he hit a buzzer-beater to end the first half.
- Throughout the game, LA made a lot of tough shots, especially in the midrange. For much of the night, it seemed that no matter how well the Bucks contested—especially their mere 18 three-point attempts—the Lakers would sink them. Furthermore, they got plenty of friendly bounces off the rim. You know what, though? They still lost.
- Wesley Matthews briefly headed to the locker room in the third, apparently favoring his right leg, but quickly returned to the bench. He then subbed back into the game with nine minutes left, seemingly no worse for the wear.
- While the margin on the offensive glass was 16 to 11 in Milwaukee’s favor, they outscored LA 23-11 in second-chance opportunities.
- Reggie Miller is moderately annoying on TNT broadcasts, but he had an absolute gem of a zinger after Davis went down in a heap (while picking up his fifth personal). AD grimaced after colliding with Wesley Matthews, he quipped that “anytime AD grimaces, it’s three weeks.”