LeBron James rose to the occasion and scored a season-high 34 points as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied to a 113-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday.
Many subplots surrounded the showdown as both the Lakers and the Bucks are again considered to be the main title favorites this season. L.A. went into the game as the NBA’s best defense while Milwaukee owned the league’s top offense.
It was also a direct duel between back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and James, who has won the award four times. The Greek forward beat the 36-year-old forward to the accolade last season, amassing 85 out of 100 potential first-place votes.
James laughed off the results on social media but later admitted he was “pissed” over the outcome of the voting. However, Antetokounmpo paid his tribute to the Lakers All-Star labeling him as the best player in the world after he led L.A. to the title in the Orlando bubble.
James appreciated the Bucks forward’s words and reciprocated by heaping praise on the 26-year-old. “Anytime you’re respected by your peers it always means something,” James said. “To be respected by a guy in our league that has been so dominant over the last few years, obviously represented the MVP trophy the last couple years, and just what he does both on the floor and off the floor, it’s very well received and very humbling.
“That guy is damn good himself.”
James has a favorable 16-5 head-to-head record against Antetokounmpo, but he denied taking satisfaction in beating the two-time MVP when the two face each other on the floor. “I think all you guys know me,” he began.
“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.”
Davis denies facing Antetokounmpo provided added motivation
Antetokounmpo completed an awards sweep over the Lakers duo James and Anthony Davis last season by claiming MVP in addition to the Defensive Player of the Year.
Davis finished a distant second, receiving more second-place votes than those for first place. But the forward said he did not use the disappointing outcome of the voting as an extra motivation ahead of the victory over Milwaukee. “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.”
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