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Lakers vs. Bucks Preview: Trying to start a long road trip right

The Lakers were gifted an easy start to their 2021-22 schedule with inferior opponents and a large majority of games in the Staples Center. They’ll now head east for a little over a week, starting with a game against the Bucks.

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Milwaukee Bucks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Before the season started, everyone saw that the Los Angeles Lakers had a relatively easy start to their schedule. Given the fact that the team already planned to see some bumps in the road early on given the overhaul of the roster, this relaxed part of the schedule couldn’t have been more timely.

Sadly — whether it’s more due to mounting injuries, including nine missed games for LeBron James, or a totally new roster that has yet to fully mesh (or both) — the Lakers find themselves coming out of that easy stretch 8-7.

A staggering 12 of those 15 games saw the Lakers playing at home, and they’ll now embark on their first, real road trip of the season. It’ll be an east coast affair, however, they’ll make a stop in the midwest first to take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Here is what you need to know before that one.

Starting off right

This does feel a little obvious, but it would definitely behoove the Lakers to start their road trip on the right foot and try and get a win against the Bucks on Wednesday. Sure, it would benefit the Lakers to win ANY game moving forward given their record, but opening the trip with a win could get their spirits back high as they continue their travels. Carmelo Anthony expressed this exact sentiment last night after their 121-103 loss against the Bulls.

“Get the win Wednesday,” Anthony said of the team’s focus for the road trip.

But LeBron James’ still presence looms large over this team, no matter if he’s in his uniform or street clothes once the game tips off. The Lakers are 4-5 in games LeBron has missed this season, but even if the losses are expected to accumulate faster with LeBron out, it’s curious that the Lakers continue to get blown out while still having Russell Westbrook and Davis out there.

Talen Horton-Tucker has apparently noticed this, and put the responsibility on his teammates and himself to step up more.

This seems to be the final game that the Lakers will have to grind to win without LeBron, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported this morning that there’s “growing optimism” that he will return in the second game of the road trip, a Friday matchup against the Boston Celtics.

But even without LeBron, the Lakers could win this game against the Bucks, something that would have been doubtful prior to the season given the Bucks’ playoff run that culminated with a championship. But Milwaukee has seemingly experienced a championship hangover similar to the one the Lakers dealt with coming off their 2020 championship, as Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo have missed considerable time due to injuries while Khris Middleton has missed the past 8 games due to COVID-19. They have an even worse record than the Lakers do, currently at 6-8 coming off a blowout 120-100 loss to the (also struggling) Atlanta Hawks.

Still, hopefully the Lakers don’t completely overlook this Bucks game in anticipation of LeBron’s return in their next game. Although that impending addition is great news for the team, Carmelo Anthony does seem to have a point that a win to kick off the road trip could inflate the team’s confidence moving forward, no matter when they get their biggest star back. That confidence could reach a high point of the season if they can then enter the TD Garden on Friday with a 9-7 record and The King ready to lead a charge as reinforcements finally arrive.

Notes and Updates:

  • Although LeBron’s return for Friday looks promising, he will remain out for the game against the Bucks. Kendrick Nunn, Trevor Ariza, and Austin Reeves will remain out as well. Two-way player Jay Huff will be out for G-League duties.
  • Although he’s listed on the injury report, the team just released that they’ve waived Sekou Doumbouya. It seems as if the foot mentioned on the report may have been the reason, with the team now signing Chaundee Brown (a standout from summer league and current South Bay Laker) to a new two-way deal. Brown will likely not be available for the road trip, per the team.
  • As previously stated, the Bucks will probably be without Brook Lopez for the 14th straight game as he’s been dealing with a back issue since playing in the season opener. The team also hasn’t had Donte DiVincenzo all season as he continues to rehab from ankle surgery he needed towards the end of last season. However, he was seen participating in on-court workouts prior to their game against the Hawks on Sunday.
  • Khris Middleton will reportedly return against the Lakers after his absence from COVID-19.
  • Around the league, as if the Lakers’ own misfortunes weren’t enough to leave a fan down in the dumps, other former Lakers — other than just from Alex Caruso — are finding success as the Washington Wizards are currently 1st in the Eastern Conference with a 10-3 record.
  • Kyle Kuzma, in particular, is finding his groove on and off the court:
  • In the West, the Phoenix Suns currently have the best winning streak in the NBA as they’ve won their last 9 games to propel themselves to 2nd in the West (only behind the equally hot Golden State Warriors).

The Lakers and Bucks will tip-off at 5:30 p.m. PT. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN, but you can also catch it locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

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