Lakers vs. Bucks takeaways: Giannis Antetokounmpo shows off improved shooting stroke in statement win
The NBA’s top two teams went head-to-head on Thursday night when reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks hosted LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. In what was billed as a potential Finals preview, it was Antetokounmpo and the Bucks that ultimately walked away with a 111-104 win, and in doing so they made a serious statement to the rest of the league.
The Bucks controlled the contest virtually from the opening tip with a dominant defense and efficient offense, as they showed exactly why they’re a top-five team on both sides of the ball. Antetokounmpo was a man on a mission, as he dropped 34 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 7 assists for Milwaukee. Davis paced the Lakers with 36 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, but ultimately his production wasn’t enough.
Though the Lakers will eventually get a shot at revenge, they’ll have to wait a while, as the two teams don’t meet up again for the second and final time of the season until early March. With that said, here’s a look at three key takeaways from the first battle between the Bucks and Lakers.
Antetokounmpo sets career-high with five made 3s
It was a career night for Antetokounmpo from long distance against the Lakers, as he connected on five of his eight attempts from beyond the arc. It was the first time that Antetokounmpo made more than four 3s in a game, a mark he had matched three times prior to tonight, and his success from deep was a big reason that the Bucks were able to walk away with a win.<
Antetokounmpo knocking down 3s like that has to be a scary sight for the rest of the league, as his shooting has long been pointed to as the main weakness in his game. As such, defenses typically back up and give him space to shoot while trying to make it more difficult for him to drive to the basket. However, if Giannis is able to expand his range and consistently knock down shots from deep, he will become virtually unguardable. On the season, Antetokounmpo is shooting a career-high 32 percent from long distance.
2. Giannis is coming for the throne
Some players shy away from a challenge. Others embrace it. Giannis Antetokounmpo falls into the latter category. In a nationally televised game against the league’s other top team and most popular player, Antetokounmpo brought his ‘A’ game. LeBron James has long sat on the ‘league’s best player’ throne, but Antetokounmpo is coming for the crown, and he made that very clear with one subtle gesture during the game.
James, who posted a triple-double (21 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists) against the Bucks, certainly doesn’t appear ready to give up his metaphorical crown, but Antetokounmpo is coming for it regardless.
3. Milwaukee has a championship-caliber defense
Entering the evening, the Bucks boasted the NBA’s best defense, and that dominant defense was on full display against the Lakers, who had a top-five offense in the league heading into the meeting with Milwaukee. The Bucks made things difficult for the Lakers all night, as they forced 18 total turnovers, and held L.A. to 34 percent shooting from deep. James (8-of-19 from the floor) and Davis (11-of-25) both got their numbers, but neither shot efficiently from the field. Milwaukee’s defense was especially effective in the first quarter, as they held the Lakers to just 17 points while setting the tone for the rest of the contest. They say that defense wins championships, and the Bucks seem to have taken that motto to heart tonight.