Bucks Vs. Lakers Preview: LeBron James Out In First Matchup With Milwaukee
LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Lakers, Bucks
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis and Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo always seem to bring out the best when they meet and all eyes will be focused on them when they matchup for the first time this season.

Last year Davis had arguably his best game of the season in the first meeting as he outdueled the former MVP with a 44-point, 10-rebound performance to lead the Lakers to a win. It was Giannis who got the better of Davis the second time around, however, with 38 points and 10 rebounds in a Bucks victory.

Cominf off a tough loss on Wednesday, the Lakers badly need to get back in the win column and find their defensive identity once again. But that will be no easy feat against one of the NBA’s best offenses.

The Bucks rank fifth in the NBA in offensive rating and 3-pointers made per game. Obviously Damian Lillard has a lot to do with that, but former Laker Malik Beasley is also shooting over 43% from deep this season as well and he is the type of player who has had huge games against the Lakers this year. Keeping the likes of Patrick Beverley, Pat Connaughton and Bobby Portis in check from deep will be huge as well.

Lillard was downgraded to questionable with a right rib contusion though so his status will be monitored leading up to tipoff.

The Lakers are also without their top star in LeBron James, who aggravated his ankle late in the loss to the Sacramento Kings and now is unable to go. That means other players like Rui Hachimura, Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish need to step up in his absence.

Hachimura was excellent against the Kings and him becoming a consistent offensive weapon will do wonders for the Lakers.

The Lakers’ backcourt is also key in this one, especially if Lillard plays. Austin Reaves will likely spend a lot of time chasing Lillard, which could put more pressure on D’Angelo Russell to have a big night as well. The point guard has delivered more often than not this season and the Lakers can ill afford for him to have a second straight off-game, especially without James in the lineup.

The Lakers also must get some sort of contribution from the reserves. Whether it is Spencer Dinwiddie, Jaxson Hayes or someone else, the team must get some impact minutes from the bench as they have become too reliant on the starters.

The Bucks are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Golden State Warriors and are looking to bounce back in a big way. Both Antetokounmpo and Lillard have given the Lakers fits in the past, but this team has proven when they are locked in they can contain some of the best players the league.

It all starts with defense for the Lakers and if they can find their form on that end of the court, the offense powered by Davis and the backcourt can score enough to pull this game out.

Los Angeles Lakers (34-30) vs. Sacramento Kings (41-21)

Friday, March 9, 2024, 7:00 p.m. PT
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Spencer Dinwiddie, Cam Reddish, Jaxson Hayes, Max Christie

Projected Bucks Starting Lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez

Key Reserves: Bobby Portis, Patrick Beverley, Pat Connaughton, AJ Green

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