clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lakers vs. Bucks Preview: Will LeBron James let Giannis Antetokounmpo take his crown?

New, comments

LeBron James will look to send Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks a message, hopefully with the help of Anthony Davis and his Lakers supporting cast.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Milwaukee Bucks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The last time the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks went head-to-head, the Bucks held the best record in the NBA and the Lakers were just one loss away from being eliminated from playoff contention. This time around, the Lakers and Bucks are on equal footing, but one of them will look to pull away on Thursday.

At 24-4, the Lakers and Bucks are tied for the best record in the NBA. A win for the Lakers on Thursday wouldn’t just make them the sole proprietor of the top spot in the standings, it would also give them a 4.5 game cushion on the No. 2 seeded LA Clippers, who they’ll see on Christmas Day. More than that, though, Thursday will give basketball fans a peek at a possible NBA Finals preview.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has looked even better than he did last season, when he led the Bucks to an NBA-best 60-22 record and was named the league MVP for the first time in his career. In 27 games, Antetokounmpo has averaged 31.7 points per game on 56.4% shooting from the field to go along with 12.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.

You can probably guess how many other players are doing that this season (zero, the answer is zero).

The Bucks’ defense has also been impressive in spite of the fact that they lost Malcolm Brogdon in restricted free agency. They’re ranked first in defensive rating, second in rebounds per game, fifth in blocks and they allow the fewest opponent second-chance points and points in the paint. The Bucks are really, really good, but the one thing they don’t have is a second superstar.

Yes, Khris Middleton has looked great this season, but he’s not in the same league that Antetokounmpo, LeBron James and Anthony Davis are in. You’ll notice that two of the players — James and Davis — play for the Lakers. So long as Davis plays, the two superstar factor could be the difference for the Lakers on Thursday.

Luckily, we won’t have to wait much longer to find out.

Notes and Updates

  • Anthony Davis was originally listed as questionable to play against the Bucks because of an ankle sprain he suffered against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday that forced him to miss Tuesday's game in Indiana, but he will play tonight.
  • Kyle Kuzma will be inactive for the Lakers on Thursday due to a mild ankle sprain.
  • The Lakers were once fined $50,000 because Magic Johnson said that he thinks Giannis Antetokounmpo will win a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks one day. The fine was for tampering.
  • The funniest part about that whole situation was the fact that the Bucks posted Magic Johnson’s quote in a fancy graphic on their Instagram the day he said it. Why? Because it was a nice thing for him to say about Giannis and the team he’s under contract with, the Bucks. It’s still up and everything.
View this post on Instagram

On A Mission. #FearTheDeer

A post shared by Milwaukee Bucks (@bucks) on

  • Tampering fines are dumb.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.