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Bucks Visit Staples Center for Final Regular-Season Clash vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are in Los Angeles Friday night for a rumble with the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers.

 

Friday night’s contest is the second matchup this year between the NBA’s most prominent title contenders. The first matchup on December 19th resulted in a dominant 111-104 win for the Bucks at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee. On that night, Giannis dropped 34, while Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 36.

 

 

Since that December matchup, both teams have been scorching hot. The Bucks are pacing for almost 70 wins and running away with the top seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Lakers have dominated to the tune of a 5.5-game lead in the Western Conference over the Clippers, prior to Friday night’s action.

With that in mind, all signs point to a potential NBA Finals preview on Friday night. A heavyweight battle including the game’s leading MVP candidates in Giannis and LeBron — a dream matchup in primetime at Staples Center.

So, here’s what you should expect from the matchup:

LEBRON VS. GIANNIS — THE MVP DEBATE

LeBron is on an absolute tear right now. That’s unquestionable. In addition to leading the NBA in assists, he’s pouring in 25 points per game and grabbing almost eight rebounds every night. And don’t forget, he’s even pulling up from the logo with ease. 

https://twitter.com/BleacherReport/status/1235060855965769728

The recent news cycle has proclaimed that the MVP race is back on — Giannis is no longer the runaway favorite. 

Sure, LeBron is putting on a show, but let’s not forget that the Bucks are pacing for almost 70 wins and no one on earth has been as dominant as Giannis has this season. 

If you take a quick glance at the per-36 numbers, there seems to be no debate:

  • Giannis: 34.5 PTS, 16.1 REB, 6.7 AST
  • LeBron: 26.3 PTS, 8.1 REB, 11.0 AST

While we understand that the Lakers are terrible with LeBron off the court and the Bucks are still incredibly dominant without Giannis, the debate should go like this: 

The Bucks might win 70 games and are in the midst of one of the greatest regular seasons in basketball history. Giannis is putting up never-seen-before numbers. So, he’s the MVP. 

We’ll leave it at that and get back to the upcoming game. 

KEYS TO THE GAME

The Bucks have lost a handful of games this year when their opponents have gotten scorching hot from beyond the arc. 

On Christmas, the Bucks were destroyed by the 76ers who made a season-high 21 threes. The Denver Nuggets dominated the Bucks on January 31st by making 22 threes. And just a few nights ago, the Bucks lost big in Miami when the Heat knocked down 18 threes. 

We know the Bucks give up a lot of great three-point looks, as they choose instead to protect the basket at all costs. So, if the Lakers want to come out on top Friday night, their three-point shooting will be paramount. Can Danny Green, Kyle Kuzma, Avery Bradley and the rest of the Lakers role players make enough shots? We’ll find out tonight. 

Shooting from deep is certainly a key for the Lakers, but on the other end of the court, it will be interesting to see how the Lakers defend Giannis. Do they throw huge bodies at him all night long? Do they drop off and tempt Giannis to make shots? Do they sprint back and abandon the offensive glass after misses, much like the Heat did recently? Those are all things to keep an eye on.

When it comes to size, the Bucks are huge upfront and one of the only teams that can match their size is the Lakers. JaVale McGee, Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard can make life in the paint difficult for Giannis and Brook Lopez. So, guard play, as well as shooting, will be crucial for the Bucks again on Friday.

If the Bucks have another poor shooting performance — see most recent Miami Heat loss — and Giannis ends up in foul trouble due to the Los Angeles size, the Bucks could struggle. 

On the other hand, if Milwaukee’s shooters — DiVincenzo, Matthews, Middleton, Hill and others — knock down triples as they did at the Fiserv Forum in December, then the Lakers could be in big, big trouble. 

Oh yeah, and if Giannis gets hot, lookout. We know he’s coming for the crown.

At the end of the day, we should all be thankful that we get to see Giannis battle LeBron in a game that means a lot to both teams. We know that Giannis will come prepared and LeBron, well, his 16 years of dominance speaks for itself — he’ll be ready.  

The game will be won or lost on the perimeter and the Bucks have the edge there, along with a considerable advantage in terms of backcourt and shooting depth.

Barring any heroic, outlandish shooting efforts from the Lakers, we expect the NBA’s best team, the Milwaukee Bucks, to pull out a road win on Friday night. 

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @BucksLead for the latest Bucks news and insight.

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