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Lakers’ second-half rally falls short against Bucks

The Lakers kept it close, but the Bucks rode a big first half from Giannis Antetokounmpo to victory in a battle of the past two NBA champions.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Russell Westbrook had a season a season-high 15 assists and Talen Horton-Tucker continued to look impressive with a 25-point performance but the Lakers’ defense could not keep up with a monster night from Giannis Antetokounmpo and lost 109-102 to the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping them back to .500 on the season at 8-8.

Antetokounmpo looked every bit the superstar he is, dropping a season-high 47 points as the Lakers had no answer for him in the paint. He had 28 of those in the first half alone and after the Lakers were able to stymie him for a bit with some zone defense in the third, the Greek Freak took over again in the fourth to put the game out of reach.

Westbrook had a solid night statistically with 19 points alongside his 15 dimes and finished a +3 on the game. The Lakers’ starters actually played decently well as a whole, with four of them finishing on the plus side of their box plus-minuses on the night. Tasked with the unenviable assignment of guarding Antetokounmpo, Davis had 18 points and nine rebounds in one of his lowest statistical outputs of the season. Horton-Tucker had a double-double of his own with 25 points and 12 rebounds and went 3-6 from three-point range.

Carmelo Anthony, though, went 2-8 from deep, continuing his road shooting struggles, and Avery Bradley had just five points and was a -6 in only 17 minutes. The Lakers’ bench was especially abysmal as Wayne Ellington and Malik Monk each went 1-7 from deep, Kent Bazemore went 0-5 from the field and did not score over his 11 minutes of action, and both Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan looked abysmal in their limited time on the court as Frank Vogel searched for answers to Giannis’s dominance in the paint.

There were a couple of silver linings in the loss. First, the Lakers outscored the Bucks by nine points in the third quarter, a dramatic and welcome departure from how they’ve looked in most third quarters this season as Vogel’s zone defense finally found a bit of success against Antetokounmpo.

Second, all signs point to this hopefully being their last game for a while without LeBron James, who is reportedly expected to play in Boston on Friday after missing the past eight contests with an abdominal strain. The Lakers desperately need him back as they renew the NBA’s flagship rivalry against the Celtics, which tips off at 4:30 p.m. PT on ESPN and Spectrum Sportsnet.

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