The Lakers have won two games in a row against teams that will share their same lottery residence. Both Orlando and the Knicks are terrible teams. In both games the Lakers showed an urgency to rebound, a willingness to move the ball from side to side, a desire to contest shots. In both games they trailed and in both games they were willful enough to fight through adversity.
Here they are in Milwaukee to play the team with the worst record in the NBA, although the 76ers are closer than ever to getting the most ping pong balls. On the season the Bucks have won 13 games which is ridiculous considering their NBA talent.
The last time the Bucks played the Lakers it was New Years Eve at Staples Center. The Lakers missed their first eleven shots and the Bucks, a team that shoots 43%, was up 14-0. The Lakers made their first shot with five minutes left in the quarter. They scored 79 points in the game. They shot 35%. Their defense was atrocious. They made Brandon Knight look like Chris Paul; he had 37 points on 60% shooting. (He averages 17 points on 41% shooting). Brandon had 18 points in the third quarter.
Not much has changed for either team in three months. Since that meeting in December the Lakers have won 11 games and lost 27. The Bucks have won 6 and lost 34. But unlike the Bucks who are just playing these last few games out trying to stave off Philadelphia to get the worst record and guarantee them a top four lottery pick the Lakers have mentioned several goals. (1) They want to get to 31 wins which means they have to go 7- 5. They don’t want to post the worst record of any Los Angeles Lakers team. But on their schedule are playoff teams: Phoenix, Portland, Dallas, Clippers, Warriors, Grizzlies, Spurs. They have a game in Minnesota which is a tough place to win. Good luck with that. (2) The Lakers want to play with pride, whatever that means. (3) They want to be a playoff spoiler. So at least they have a purpose as they go into today’s game against the Bucks, they have some motivation. But they have the second worst defense in the NBA, more woeful than the Bucks. And they have a coach who doesn’t talk to his players.
But as always it is about the matchups. The Lakers have no answer for Brandon Knight off the dribble. Kendall Marshall is too slow. D’antoni might use Jodie Meeks on him but he can’t guard Knight either. Ramon Sessions, the former Lakers, had 28 points and 7 assists and one turnover against the Clippers on Monday night. Ramon is one of the best in the NBA in scoring off of drives which means the Lakers rim protectors are going to be consistently challenged. The rest of the Bucks are mediocre. O. J. Mayo is out of shape. Zaza Pachulia at center makes no one lose sleep. The ‘greek freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is an athletic talent with an incredible future but he is still a raw player that makes some mind bending dunks.
If the Lakers are true to their word and they are motivated, this is a game they should be in all the way until the end. Xavier Henry has been the Lakers best player since his return but his flaws remain: he shoots 50% at home and 32% on the road. He shoots 49% from three at home and 13% from three on the road. His mental toughness and concentration needs to rise to another level when he is on the road. Also, Xavier has a bad habit of moving in a straight line when he gets into the paint instead of changing directions which puts the defender in jeopardy. Instead, Xavier puts his head down and runs straight into the defender. Of course he never gets the call. Why should he? The refs knows he is not going to change directions. So do the defenders; they guard him that way. These are the small details Xavier has to master before he can take his game to another level and get the contract he believes he deserves.
The Lakers wing players, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Kent Bazemore should have success if they move the ball. The Bucks are last in three point defense. The Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman combo will not be tested much. The Bucks are 28th in defensive rebounding.
All things being equal, this should be a three or four point game in the last few minutes. The Bucks only score 95 points a game. But the Lakers give up 108 points. (108 Points) Because the Lakers want to win more than the Bucks they should have the edge and the final answer: who is the biggest loser? Don’t despair though. The Lakers have plenty of losses to come, starting with tomorrow when they play the Timberwolves.