The Los Angeles Lakers wrap up the month of February Friday night by playing host to an emerging Milwaukee Bucks team looking to continue its ascent up the Eastern Conference playoff ladder. The last time these two teams met, the Lakers' numerous miscues down the stretch led to an overtime loss in Cream City.
Unlike the Lakers' inactivity at last week's trade deadline, the Bucks administered a fairly substantial roster shakeup by swapping out burgeoning offensive sparkplug Brandon Knight and injured former Laker Kendall Marshall for a trio of players headlined by reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.
While the Bucks ended a two-game slide against the Sixers on Wednesday in Carter-Williams' starting debut, there does not yet exist a large enough sample size to fairly pass final judgment on what was largely an offense for defense trade. One thing is clear though: the Bucks are going all-in on their commitment to long, rangy dudes who can fly around the floor interchangeably under coach Jason Kidd's defensive scheme built on athleticism and the ability to cover large swaths of court in short amounts of time. Kidd's soda spilling days with the Brooklyn Nets now seem like a distant memory as he's proven himself to be a quality NBA coach, whipping what was a moribund Bucks squad into a top flight defensive unit that ranks an impressive 2nd in efficiency on that end of the floor.
Slightly diminishing their stable of long-limbed inflatable arm-flailing tube men has been the unusual set of circumstances surrounding the recent departure of former defensive metrics darling Larry Sanders. While it might be easy to make jokes at Sanders' expense amid speculation about drug use and odd behavior, the anxiety and depression he claims to be dealing with are certainly serious enough; and while money isn't everything, anything causing a 26 year-old to leave roughly $22 million on the table must be no laughing matter.
Milwaukee, however, has fared well even during the Sanders drama, as their 7-3 record over their last ten games threatens to push them right past a slumping Washington Wizards team and into the East's fifth seed. Young up and comers Khris Middleton, John Henson and Tyler Ennis provide a mixture of potential and intrigue while Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to live up to his "Greek Freak" moniker with his ungodly athletic exploits and box score-stuffing versatility.
While the Lakers' 3-7 record over that same stretch is nothing to write home about, they do boast a 2-game winning streak of their own, and will look to affix another sticky bomb to the treads of the tank by picking up the hat-trick tonight in front of the Staples Center faithful.
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT