Preview: Lakers take on the Bucks for the best record in the NBA

Lakers and Bucks
LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 1: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball against Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks on March 1 2019 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers currently have the best record in their conference at 24-4, coming off a fresh loss to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night. They will be trying to avoid their first two-game losing streak of the season on Thursday night as they will be facing the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Milwaukee Bucks currently have the best record in their conference at 24-4, coming off a fresh loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. They will be trying to avoid their first two-game losing streak of the season on Thursday night as they will be facing the Los Angeles Lakers.

Did those two paragraphs seem similar to you?

Something will have to give Thursday night with one team leaving the building with the best record in the NBA as well as suffering their first multi-game losing streak of the year. Now, this is only December 19th, so this game really has no viable impact on the playoffs, especially with the Lakers and Bucks being in separate conferences. However, it’ll be a great litmus test for both of the teams to see just how great they really are against the literal best of the league.

Who will try and defend Giannis Antetokounmpo?

The Lakers will be facing the reigning MVP on his own court and are definitely going to have their hands full. The Greek Freak is putting together what might be another MVP season, currently averaging 31.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. If the season ended today, his marks at points and rebounds would both be career highs. In addition, Giannis seems to be somewhat improving his long-distance shot, as he is averaging 32.1% on 5.1 threes attempts per game. He’s never averaged more than 2.8 three-point attempts in a season and he’s only averaged more than 32.1% during his rookie year (34.7% on a minuscule 1.5 attempts per game).

The very obvious answer as to who will be defending Giannis is, of course, Anthony Davis. He might be the only player other than LeBron James who can come close to matching Giannis length and speed, and is the current Defensive Player of the Year front-runner. However, Davis missed the previous game against the Indiana Pacers due to an ankle injury sustained Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks. His status for the game against the Bucks is yet to be revealed, but he did say that he will “hopefully” play in the game.

If Davis is out for the game, it will be a true team effort. The Lakers will have to rely on their help defense and will have to hope that JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard can defend the rim from a Giannis onslaught. Either way, the Lakers may not be able to keep him in check even with Davis on the floor. The Mavericks have decent length and size, and (in the Bucks loss) Giannis still had 48 points and 14 rebounds.

Two Very, Very Tall Teams

Much has been made about the Lakers’ length this season, as it has really helped them cause problems for opposing teams’ offenses. It’s a crazy idea, but putting Davis, McGee, Howard, and LeBron on the same team with three of those four usually on the court at the same time apparently causes some headaches for offenses!

The Lakers’ length has given the team the fourth-best Defensive Rating in the league going into December 18th, but who is first in the league? None other than the Milwaukee Bucks.

They will, of course, be supported on the defensive end by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who may the quickest player with his size and length. They also have some large and tall men on their team, who happen to be twins. I’m talking about Brook and Robin Lopez, who are both seven-foot towers that both cause problems for teams trying to finish at the rim.

Will the Lakers win?

I don’t know. Possibly? Maybe not?

As stated previously, Lakers fans shouldn’t put too much actual weight into this game. If anything, the upcoming Christmas matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers holds way much more value as we may be vying for seeding with them come April.

That doesn’t mean that Lakers fans can’t talk that mess after the game if they win. The Bucks are absolutely no joke. They have the best Net Rating in the league at 12.4, with the aforementioned best Defensive Rating and the second-best Offensive Rating. The Lakers are, of course, not far behind, with the second-best Net Rating, fourth-best Defensive Rating, and fifth-best Offensive Rating. If Davis plays, this should be a tightly-contested matchup until the end, with it potentially being the game of the year so far in the NBA if that happens.

Important note: both teams coming in short-handed

In addition to Anthony Davis possibly not being able to play tomorrow, the Lakers will more than likely be without Kyle Kuzma as he continues to try and heal up his own ankle injury. As for the Bucks, they will be without Eric Bledsoe as he will be missing his third straight game. He sustained a fracture in his leg, and will be out for at least another 1-2 weeks.

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