Friday’s contest against the Milwaukee Bucks not only meant they have faced every team in the NBA this season but also meant the final contest during the Grammy road trip. While the Lakers haven’t exactly fared well (1-4), Luke Walton’s unit had a chance to end the trip on a strong note.
The Bucks are bouncing back from a key loss, as forward Jabari Parker tore his ACL for a second time last week and is out for a projected 12 months. Besides that negative news, the Bucks actually had a great week as a franchise, after unveiling they will have a D-League team.
On the other hand, the Lakers have moved in another direction this season, as Walton has elected to go with youth moving forward. His starting lineup featured D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Tarik Black.
Head coach Jason Kidd countered with Matthew Delavadova, Tony Snell, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker and John Henson.
The Lakers came out to play this game, with a quick 15-7 run in the first four minutes of the game. Upon a cold stretch over the past few games, Young started out the game strong, as he banked in a four-point play while running around a screen.
Friday’s contest between the two struggling teams also was a glimpse at the future, with a battle between Ingram and Antetokounmpo. Both Walton and Young recently stated that Ingram has the potential to play like Antetokounmpo, a prediction many fans would be pleased with.
The Lakers started out the game with five assists on their first six baskets, with strong ball rotations using their offense. However, the starting unit was struggling on the defensive end, thanks in part to the athleticism of Antetokounmpo.
The offense was able to find the hot man, as Young certainly wanted to break out of his slump. Upon hitting the four-point play and a corner three, the Bucks started closing out on him. However, Young adjusted beautifully with two consecutive layups on pump fakes.
After a turnover on a bad pass from Russell, Black chased down Antetokounmpo, with a nasty block on a fast break lay up. Los Angeles responded to that block tremendously, as a 7-0 run put them ahead 29-15 with five minutes left in the first quarter.
The ideal start certainly had Walton happy, as his starters were playing with a certain aggressiveness that was missing lately. Upon a strong first eight minutes, Walton elected to make a complete lineup substitution, as the bench mob came in to end the quarter.
On their first possession, Jordan Clarkson drove hard down the lane, with a dump off to Ivica Zubac for a three-point play. Zubac wanted to match Black’s strong start, with another two easy buckets in the lane, for seven points in his first minute of action.
Clarkson then buried a deep triple with the shot clock down, giving them a 39-26 lead. The Lakers matched their season high with 41 points in the first quarter, with more than two minutes left. Lou Williams broke their season high with a free throw the next play, followed by a three while roaming to his left.
At the end of the first quarter, the Lakers led by a score of 47-30. The team went 18-for-22 in the first quarter, knocking down six three-pointers.
With that hot start to the first quarter, the Lakers had to cool off from that pace eventually. The second unit for the Bucks featured scoring veteran Michael Beasley, who scored his first bucket in the paint.
Although the Lakers were shooting tremendously, they also weren’t afraid of going to the basket. In fact, the team already had 11 free throws, with 10 minutes still remaining in the second quarter. Walton remained vocal as usual, insisting that the team continue to feed off of each other.
Zubac was able to get nine early points in the paint, with three of those baskets coming off of assists from Clarkson and Williams. Five Lakers had multiple assists in the game, with the Lakers leading 55-41 with nine minutes remaining in the second quarter.
While the bench mob was scoring at a nice pace, their defense was what was leading to their success offensively. Nance Jr. was active in the passing lanes per usual, with several deflections that lead to steals.
The Lakers were attempting to get their first victory at the BMO Harris Bradley Center since Walton was actually on Phil Jackson’s roster in 2010. The complete team effort was certainly a sight to see, as every player was contributing on both ends.
While the Bucks starters were resting, Beasley was providing the scoring punch off the bench. The lottery pick has always had a knack for scoring, with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
The big men for both teams were playing extremely physical on Friday, with many dunks in the first half. Black, who has shown he isn’t scared of any opponent, was a pivotal defensive anchor for the Lakers while battling on the offensive glass.
He had four rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in 12 minutes of action. Off a missed three-pointer, Black got position over Henson and another Buck and threw down a right-handed jam.
At the half, the Lakers held an impressive 76-55 lead, upon shooting lights out from the field. Young led the starters with 15 points (5-for-5), while Russell chipped in four three-pointers for 12 points. Zubac and Williams each had 11 points off the bench, while Nance Jr. chipped in eight points (6-for-6 FTs).
That 21-point lead was also the highest scoring half for the Lakers this season, with the team shooting 69.2 (27-for-39) from the field. The Bucks weren’t struggling offensively either, as they shot 55.3 percent (21-for-38), but still trailed by over 20 points.
Young, who was perfect from the field in the first half, remained hot to begin the second half. The shooting guard hit a midrange jumper and was just getting started.
The next two possessions resulted with the ball in Young’s hand, as he drained two more three-pointers. Two minutes into the second half and Young was still perfect from the field, with 23 points on 8-for-8 shooting.
Although the Bucks started the half with four straight points, they went cold shortly after, going scoreless for the next three minutes. A free throw from Black extended the lead to 86-59, with nine minutes still remaining in the third quarter.
The Lakers began to get sloppy with the comfortable lead, with consecutive turnovers and a lazy effort while closing out on shooters. The sluggish play continued for a few minutes, which forced the coaches to call a timeout to regather.
The tremendous pace finally slowed down in the third quarter, with both teams going cold for a period of time. However, the bench mob was then inserted to increase the aggressiveness. Clarkson nailed another three-pointer on a step back, giving the team a 92-67 lead.
However, the Bucks responded by inching closer, outscoring the Lakers 16-11 over the next three minutes. Consecutive threes from Antetokounmpo and Maker got the scoring started again, which was followed by a Clarkson three and another increase in the pace of play.
At the end of the third quarter, the Lakers held a 103-84 lead, as the Bucks outscored them 29-27 in the frame.
The offense in the fourth quarter got a little complacent, attempting three lengthy threes to start the quarter. None of them would fall, while the Bucks were able to inch closer.
The Bucks went on a 7-0 run over the next two minutes, which cut the lead to 105-91. Antetokounmpo continued to attack the rim, as he had 33 points, with 14 points off of free throws less than halfway through the final period.
While clamping down on defense, the Bucks were able to wreak havoc from the passing lanes, getting multiple steals off of questionable passes. Off an Antetokounmpo steal, Malcolm Brogdon finished a layup for a three-point play on the foul from Williams.
Brogdon was also able to score the following possession, as his lay-up cut the lead down to seven points. Walton then called a timeout in fury, watching his team crumble under the pressure of a 14-2 run courtesy of their counterparts.
The Lakers went cold on the offensive end, failing to score a bucket over a five-minute stretch. Walton then reinserted his starts, with Nance Jr. taking the place of Black for offensive purposes. The starters responded tremendously, scoring six straight points to extend the lead back into double digits. Nance Jr. found Randle for a dunk, followed by a Randle offensive rebound for a three-point play.
Jason Terry added in a three-pointer to cut the lead to six points, but Randle followed with a driving hook over Antetokounmpo. Both teams traded baskets, with an 113-107 Lakers lead with a little over a minute remaining.
With both teams in the bonus early in the quarter, Nance Jr. was fouled splitting a double team, resulting in two free throws. Nance missed the first free throw, his first miss of the night, but made the following to give the Lakers a seven-point lead.
The Bucks were able to cut it the five points but were on the difficult end of a review play. Nance Jr. sprinted back on defense, deflecting Antetokounmpo’s pass and off of Brogdon for a turnover.
With about 30 seconds left, the Lakers held the ball, to their dismay. Russell was doubled in the corner and threw a risky pass, which somehow made its way to Williams. The sixth man nailed both free throws, giving them a seven-point lead and wrapping the game up.
The Bucks were able to tack on two Antetokounmpo free throws, but the Lakers were able to avoid disaster on way to an 118-110 victory.
Young finished the game with a team-high 26 points, on 8-for-11 shooting, with five threes and four assists. Antetokounmpo finished with a career-high 41 points, along with eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and three blocks.