nba

Lakers take on Milwaukee Bucks at home

The Lakers and Bucks split the two games they played against each other last season.

LOS ANGELES — The Lakers have been very up and down in this current home stand.

First, they came away with an overtime win against the not-so-great Washington Wizards. This was followed by a loss to the champion Denver Nuggets, when LeBron scored his 40,000th career point. The Lakers seemingly played their best game of the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder. But then they were followed by a dud of a game after such a great start against the Sacramento Kings.

The Lakers are 2-2 in this stay at Crypto Dot Com Arena. Coming into their home floor on Friday night? The Milwaukee Bucks. And we know they’re always dangerous.

The Bucks have already had quite an interesting season. Seemingly out of nowhere, they acquired Damian Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard’s old coach in Portland, Terry Stotts, was there to be an assistant for newly-minted head coach Adrian Griffin but Stotts walked out before the season started. The Bucks still had a very good record but the team lost faith in the new coach as the season wore on. Griffin was ousted in favor of Doc Rivers (the way the news broke was a bizarre ordeal in itself), who was reportedly mentoring Griffin behind the scenes.

Milwaukee struggled right after Doc got hired. The Bucks still had an excellent record (second best in the East). Doc Rivers would coach the all-star team in mid-February (coaches can’t coach the all-star game in consecutive years) in weird fashion (3-7 before All-Star weekend). Still, Milwaukee finally seemed to get it together after the break as they won 6 straight games before the Warriors obliterated them last Wednesday.

He has kept insisting it’s Dame’s team but we know that Milwaukee is all about their homegrown franchise player, Giannis Antetokounmpo (30.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists per game). An MVP candidate every year these days, Giannis scored 38 points the last time they faced the Lakers. And before that, he scored 40 points against the Lakers three straight times. So we know he always gets up for them. It’ll be hard to limit this dude.

As for Dame? His scoring went down as expected (24.4 points this season compared to 32.2 last season) as he is next to a big-time star. But his shooting has been up and down, even as of late. Still, we can’t deny how dangerous he is on the open court and behind the arc. And we know he has to do more offensively since his defense isn’t as great, especially compared to the departed Jrue Holiday (who they traded to get Dame).

Giannis and Dame are flanked by some excellent role players, though. The Lakers don’t have to worry about Khris Middleton, though, who is out for this game. His 3-and-D skills are important to the Bucks’ attack. Bobby Portis is one of the leading candidates for 6th Man of the Year. Former Laker Brook Lopez has become a terrifying shot blocker and has increased his shooting range (threes) in the last few years. And another former Laker, Malik Beasley (.435 from three), has rediscovered his shooting touch after a not-so-great year in Los Angeles. Bucks also have Pat Connaughton, A.J. Green (not the wide receiver), and Patrick Beverley for all the shooting and scrapping.

When the Lakers last played the Bucks, they had just gotten off the trade deadline. So there was no D’Angelo Russell and Jarred Vanderbilt (well, they still don’t). LeBron also sat out; he had just become the NBA all-time leading scorer two days before. Speaking of LeBron, he’s questionable yet again as he left before the Kings game was over. He did say he should be good to go against the Bucks after their loss to the Kings.

Anyway, I hate to keep harping on this but we’d like to see more effort on the defensive end. The Kings making 14 straight against them in the second quarter really took the air out of their sails. Still, it’s not like we haven’t seen the Lakers lock down defensively; I keep saying they’re capable of it. I don’t see why they can’t do the same thing to Milwaukee. Plus, the Warriors just slammed them to the wall; the Lakers should be able to do it, too, right?

Anthony Davis had yet another disappearing act. But maybe we don’t have to worry about him against Milwaukee; he scored 44 points in their first of two games against Milwaukee last season. And as we mentioned, this is the first time we’re seeing D’Angelo Russell play against the Bucks in his second stint. If the Lakers can play some decent defense (watch them three-pointers!), keep the turnovers down, and have Davis match Giannis, they should be all right. Gotta watch out for that Damian Lillard guy, though.

Yet another big game for the Lakers. And it’s going to be like this until the end of the 2023-24 campaign.