The Los Angeles Lakers bounced back in a big way, defeating the Milwaukee Bucks in what could be a potential NBA Finals matchup.
LeBron James made a statement with his performance, scoring a game-high 34 points to go along with eight assists and six rebounds. James shot 52% from the field, but more impressively drained 6-of-10 of his attempts from distance. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also had a hot shooting night, nailing 7-of-10 from beyond the arc en route to 23 points.
It was the kind of game the Lakers needed after blowing a 14-point fourth quarter lead against the Golden State Warriors. From the opening tip there was much more urgency and effort on both ends, allowing them to overcome a Bucks squad that has been playing well as of late.
Anthony Davis and Los Angeles could have had some extra motivation to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo after he won both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year for the 2020 season, but that thoroughly was downplayed.
“That was last season,” Davis said. “Honestly, no one brought that up or talked about it. Our motivation was not losing two in a row, and we were able to get that accomplished. He’s a great player on both sides of the ball and he deserved them. For us, we just try to go out there and win basketball games.”
James echoed much of the same, saying, “I think all you guys know me. It’s never been about individual. It’s all about team success. That’s all that matters. I can care less about that. I just try to play well and help our team win versus any opponent.
“I just think we didn’t like the way we played and finished the game off in the second half versus Golden State. That sat with us for a couple days. We knew it was going to be a tough environment coming in here playing against a very, very good team.
“A team that’s been on top of the league or top of the East standings and just been doing so many great things over the last couple years. With their three All-Stars now — you can throw Jrue in there — we knew it was going to be very competitive and challenging for us.
“It was our job to just come out and try to implement our style and for me personally to do everything that needed to be done out on the floor, both offensively and defensively to help us win this game. You live with the results after that.”
James and Davis finished runner up to Antetokounmpo in the MVP and DPOY races, respectively, but both stars have repeatedly said that it did not matter to them and that a championship was their focused.
However, the way they went at the Bucks superstar suggests differently as they were aggressive all night.
The Lakers have not played their best basketball yet, but their win against the Bucks is an indicator they can still win when they put in full effort for extended stretches. Hopefully they can sustain that level of play for the remainder of their road trip.
Davis explains how Lakers kept Giannis in check
Guarding a player of Antetokounmpo’s caliber is nearly impossible for one person, so Davis and the Lakers worked as a unit to limit the reigning MVP. “It’s team defense,” Davis said. “Everyone, not just the guy on the ball, is helping guard him.
“The league has created this phrase, ‘The Giannis Law,’ because he’s so good in transition. When you load up he made the right plays. I think Wes kind of helped us out because he played with him last year. He gave us a little insight on the things they like to run and do, but it’s a team defense. It’s a team effort on everyone who is on the other side of the ball.
“I think myself, Markieff, ‘Bron, Trezz, guys are just being physical, trying to limit his paint touches and make other guys beat us. I didn’t know he had nine turnovers, but that was a helluva job for us defensively.”
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