The Milwaukee Bucks showed up on Thursday night ready to prove they deserve to be the NBA’s title favorite, while the Los Angeles Lakers just looked like a team ready to get home to their own beds for most of the first half before making the score appear closer than it was by the end of the night.
But while some of the reasons the Lakers lost to the Bucks, 111-104, on Thursday night were attributable to this being their eighth road game in their last nine contests, some of it also exposed flaws that have been continually picked at by good teams this season, flaws that may have to be addressed at some point if they continue to crop up.
Just as it has against other contenders, the Lakers’ offense too often looked constipated against the Bucks, over-reliant on one-on-one creation and appearing to have issues making even a simple post entry pass when LeBron James isn’t shouldering the creation load.
The other issue for the Lakers on Thursday was that they were fully committed to letting Giannis Antetokounmpo shoot, and while there is something to be said for sticking to your game plan — the Lakers would have been praised as disciplined for weathering the storm had Antetokounmpo missed a few more threes than he did — he completely burned them for that choice, going 5-8 from behind the arc to finish with 34 points total. The Bucks followed his lead, shooting 41% from distance as the Lakers came up short on closeouts, or just didn’t close out at all, time and time again.
The Lakers were also (again) bitten by their lack of consistent scoring off the bench, as their reserves combined for just four points. That’s not going to get it done, as even on nights when both their superstars have it going — which they did not, as James still appears to be suffering from a cold, and finished the game shooting just 8-19 while turning the ball over four times — they’ll need a bit more from their role players than they got tonight.
Overall, this loss isn’t a disaster. This post isn’t a call to fire and or trade everyone. The Lakers are still in first place in the West at 24-5, and as Frank Vogel and Danny Green said pregame on Spectrum SportsNet, no one gets a trophy at the end of this one. The Lakers also deserve credit for never throwing in the towel after going down big in the first half.
Still, there were moments here where the flaws that may trouble this team in postseason games with a similar tenor to this one were on full display, and it might be time for the team to see what they can do about those issues.