Milwaukee at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CST (ESPN)
Spread: MIL -1
Odds c/o 5dimes
This could be a preview of the NBA Finals. The second half of the ESPN doubleheader has the top teams from each conference crashing, and the Milwaukee Bucks are 1-point favorites over the hosting Los Angeles Lakers at 9:30 PM (CST Friday). The over/under is set at 229 total points according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes.
LAL NEWS & NOTES:
The Los Angeles Lakers are now 47-13. It is currently seated atop the Western Conference with a five-game lead over the No. 2 seeded Denver Nuggets. The Lakers have won nine of its last 10.
It appears the gamble to wager so much young talent to obtain Anthony Davis has paid off thus far. Davis leads the team in scoring, providing a powerful punch that LeBron James has done little more than feast from.
The Lakers rank No. 8 in the Association in scoring at 113.7 points per game while possessing a defense that limits teams to just 106.1. The Lakers also rank No. 7 in the league in assists per game as a team, tallying an impressive 26.1 per game.
James, of course, ranks highest in the assist category, even with the dime-dropping Rajon Rondo coming in to play alongside him. James is averaging 10.9 assists per game, to go with his 25.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks/steals per game. Davis is leading the way with 27.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.3 assists while coming up with 1.4 steals and 2.5 blocks per contest.
The missing thing, if anything, has been the Kyle Kuzma that Los Angeles is used to seeing. Kuzma has played 25 games this season since returning from injury, but he has only started one of those. He averages just 23.8 minutes per game, and his shooting percentages are mediocre at 42 percent field goals and 35 percent triples. Kuzma averages the third-most of any Laker at 12.2 per game, but he really should be over at least 15 points per game. Avery Bradley is the No. 6 scorer at only eight points per game, though Bradley is known to be a defensive pest and that is his primary focus while on the court.
Kuzma, meanwhile, is known to be a shooter but not really excelling in that lone aspect of his offense. Rondo, as mentioned, comes off the bench to play 21 minutes a game, picking up nearly six assists in those limited minutes. The biggest pleasant surprise has undoubtedly been Dwight Howard. While his numbers are far from eye-popping, he has embraced the role of a defensive-minded presence whose job is to protect the rim and grab boards.
Howard has averaged just under 20 minutes a game, providing just under seven points, seven rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He has rotated well on defense, communicated, and been something of a second-unit leader. The Lakers are pleased with their low-risk investment in Howard, which drew more than its fair share of criticism even though the Lakers were not contractually bound to the former three-time Defensive Player of the Year.
To be sure, he is not the “same guy” that averaged over 21 points per game for the Orlando Magic. That All-Star form is firmly in the past, but Howard’s defensive energy is partly responsible for the Lakers’ overall turnaround as a team on the defensive end. Davis is, naturally, an even bigger part of this picture, but the Lakers were expected to be a slow team on defense, and that has been nowhere close to true, even with Davis often playing the 4-spot.
In fact, so many things have fallen into place that other than getting better play out of its No. 3 scorer in Kuzma, it is hard to find any other areas of overt weakness in the Lakers approach thus far in 2019-20.
Milwaukee has been outstanding thus far and has wholly dominated its competition with its 53-9 record thus far. Milwaukee is 19-4 against Western Conference opponents.
The Bucks are No. 1 NBA in scoring at 119.6 points per game, and it allows just 106.9 per game. The Bucks have a win differential of +12.8 points. Milwaukee is the league’s best rebounding team, too, averaging 51.8 boards per contest.
Giannis Antetokounmpo may finally win his elusive MVP award, too. The Greek forward is averaging 30 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game while posting a silly-high PER of 33.50. That does not even take his defensive talents into play, where he averages 2.3 steals/blocks per game while playing outstanding one-on-one defense.
Khris Middleton is the No. 2 scorer at 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. Eric Bledsoe is the third-option after Middleton with 15.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. George Hill has been a great sixth man for the Bucks. He is scoring 10 points and dishing three assists per game in just 21 minutes a night.
Veteran center Brook Lopez has been somewhat effective, but his 30.4 percent three-point shooting on 4.8 attempts per game certainly helps keep defenses honest and spreads the court for the Bucks. Lastly, Donte DiVincenzo has stepped into the same role he served at Villanova for the Bucks. He is providing a spark. The second-year guard is averaging 8.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in just 22.6 minutes per game. He has also started 20 games this season. The Bucks are legitimate contenders, now that the Warriors dynasty has come to its end, and also because LeBron James headed to the Western Conference. He’s back, tonight, but the Bucks can dodge this matchup until the Finals (obviously). Tonight’s game could be a bit of a statement maker for both teams.