In the second NBA Finals dress rehearsal of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers were able to overcome reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in a 113-103 victory on Friday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers had no answer for Antetokounmpo in the first quarter, and the Bucks’ shooters were as good as advertised. To make matters worse, the Lakers’ bigs got into early foul trouble because of some questionable calls by the officials.
Once the Lakers got their first quarter jitters out of the way, they looked like a team that was on the same level competitively as the Bucks, particularly on the defensive end. That was thanks to a bounce back effort from Avery Bradley in the second half, and a few solid defensive possessions from Kyle Kuzma. No, that second part wasn’t a typo — his isolation defense was fantastic. Additionally, JaVale McGee and Anthony Davis took turns taking care of the paint.
On offense, LeBron James led the way with 37 points and 7 assists to go along with his 8 rebounds and 3 steals. The Lakers’ need solid production from James every night, but there’s no chance they would have won this game without him. He went at Antetokounmpo with no fear, took on the challenge of guarding him on defense for much of the second half and carried his team to the finish line. Friday night was an example why Lakers fans are so confident they can beat anyone in the postseason, and with a win against the Bucks, they’re guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
The Lakers are now 48-13, and will try to make another statement on Sunday, when they’ll face off against the LA Clippers for the third time this season. The Lakers are 0-2 against the Clippers so far, but as we saw on Friday, no team is unbeatable — not even the Mighty Bucks.