The Los Angeles Lakers have their work cut out for them as they take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who currently hold the NBA’s best record. Additionally, Milwaukee has won nine consecutive road games and with a victory will clinch a spot in the playoffs.
As it stands, the Lakers are three games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings, and also three games back of the Clippers for eighth. They are just one game back of catching the Sacramento Kings at ninth.
The Clippers and Kings are playing one another at the same time the Lakers host on the Bucks.
With that said, this game becomes even more vital. A loss guarantees the Lakers lose ground on someone, and they cannot afford to do that with just 20 games remaining this season.
The Bucks are probably the worst opponent to have in such an important game against, as they look to be one of the league’s top teams. Antetokounmpo is playing MVP-level basketball, averaging 27.0 points, 12.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting an absurd 58.1 percent from the field.
Friday also marks Brook Lopez’s first game against the Lakers since leaving them in free agency. He his having a phenomenal year with the Bucks, averaging 12.0 points a game on 36 percent from three.
The Lakers need to play one of their best games of the season just to have a chance at beating this Bucks team, and that requires a massive uptick in defensive intensity. The Bucks hold the NBA’s third-best offensive rating, while also playing with the best defensive rating in the league. Because of this they have the NBA’s best net rating by over three points.
“Toughest part? You’ve got to do multiple and triple things on each possession. You’ve got to be able to have all eyes on Giannis but at the same time don’t forget about all the other guys that they have, too,” LeBron James said of the matchup.
“All-Star in Middleton, Bledsoe had a triple-double last game, Brook is shooting from 30 feet, and Brogdon was the Rookie of the Year. They spread the floor, so you’ve got to be able to shrink the floor on Giannis and not let him play in a lot of space because that’s where he’s dangerous. But also at the same time, you have to get out to the shooters.
“No mistakes. Obviously they’re going to happen throughout the course of a game but if you can limit them as much as possible, you can put yourself in position to win a ball game. They’re a great team. They’ve got the best record in our league for a reason.”
On the Lakers’ side, everyone must be at their best. James, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma all played great games against the New Orleans Pelicans, but it’ll need to be more than those three to succeed against Milwaukee.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton is sticking with the new small-ball lineup unveiled earlier this week, which has Rajon Rondo again starting and Kuzma at center in favor of JaVale McGee.
Lance Stephenson, who suffered a sprained toe against the Pelicans, is questionable. Lonzo Ball remains out as he recovers from a sprained ankle and bone bruise.
Fortunately for the Lakers, they get the matchup at home, where they are 18-12 as compared to 12-19 on the road. On the flip side, the Bucks have the NBA’s best road record at 22-9.
Los Angeles Lakers (30-31) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (47-14)
7:30 P.M. PT, Mar. 1, 2019
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Brandon Ingram
SF: Reggie Bullock
PF: LeBron James
C: Kyle Kuzma
Key Reserves: Javale McGee, Josh Hart, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lance Stephenson
Projected Bucks Starting Lineup:
PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Malcolm Brogdon
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Nikola Mirotic, Tony Snell, Pat Connaughton, Ersan Ilyasova
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