The Los Angeles Lakers had a huge statement win last night, beating the Milwaukee Bucks 113-103. The win was heavily due to LeBron James’ big night, as he had 37 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, and three steals. After the win, the Lakers are now 20-0 when LeBron scores 30+ points in a game.
Sure, he had an insane offensive performance as he usually does, but Frank Vogel was more impressed with those three steals and his overall defense on the Bucks’ own star, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Here’s what Vogel had to say following the game about LeBron (h/t Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen & Roll).
Frank Vogel on the best part of LeBron's night to him: pic.twitter.com/WMnmpu0RLx
— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) March 7, 2020
🎥 Vogel on LBJ's performance: "Most impressive part of LeBron’s night was his defense on Giannis." pic.twitter.com/TEVPVpQmi5
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 7, 2020
As Vogel stated, LeBron was guarding Giannis a good amount towards the end of the first half as well as early on in the second half as Anthony Davis had three fouls early on going into halftime. The results were pretty good, as seen below in Giannis’ stats while being guarded by LeBron compared to the rest of the Lakers’ defenders (per NBA.com):
- Giannis Antetokounmpo guarded by LeBron James for a total time of 5:21:
- 7 points, 2-for-8 FGs (1-for-5 3P FGs), 1 turnover
- Giannis against all other defenders (next closest amount of time is Anthony Davis with 1:55):
- 25 points, 8-for-13 FGs (1-for-1 3P FGs), 1 turnover
Here is a short video showing some of the possessions where LeBron James was partly or entirely guarding Giannis. You can see LeBron is daring him to take long jump shots, while Giannis apparently wanted no part in trying to drive on him.
The goal with Giannis is to keep him out of the paint. LeBron did just that, plus a little more
Giannis guarded by LeBron – 5:12 in total time defended, most on team (h/t NBA Stats): 7 points, 2/8 FGs (1/5 3P FGs)
Giannis guarded by all other defenders: 25 pts, 8/13 FGs pic.twitter.com/BC0kb3QXHN
— Lakers Outsiders (@LakersOutsiders) March 7, 2020
Although LeBron is never going to guard a player of Giannis’ elite status for an entire game, it’s extremely comforting to see that LeBron can step up to the challenge if he needs to. That will give Vogel and the Lakers some peace of mind if Davis, Avery Bradley, or Danny Green find themselves in foul trouble, or if the Lakers just want to use LeBron’s physicality on the likes of Giannis, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, or other superstars in the playoffs.
Some have doubted that LeBron still has the defensive prowess in his 17th season to perform this type of defense, but only a month ago Jared Dudley was emphasizing that he had no doubt that LeBron could do this.
This matchup could be seen again later this year if the Lakers face the Bucks in a 7-game series in the NBA Finals, as the Lakers will have to pull out all the stops to stop The Greek Freak.