NBA Daily Rundown: Bucks Win Powerhouse Match-Up Against Lakers
Giannis leads Bucks’ charge in battle of league-leading teams
Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks drew first blood against the Los Angeles Lakers with an impressive 111-104 victory at home. Antetokounmpo, the league’s reigning MVP, was the best player in a match-up that featured three of the Top 5 players we have right now. The Greek Freak finished with an all-around stat line of 34 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists, while also hitting his stride beyond the arc with five treys. Veteran combo guard George Hill came off the bench to chip in 21 markers, and All-Star swingman Khris Middleton came through with 15 points and 6 boards.
The powerhouse face-off that drew the most audience this season with 2.78 million viewers did live to the hype. Lakers superstar big man Anthony Davis shook off an ankle injury that forced him to sit out his previous game, while LeBron James did his usual LeBron things with another triple-double outing.
With a masterful defensive performance in the opening period, the Bucks followed it up with a 42-point second quarter. Milwaukee already had a comfortable 19-point lead by halftime, but the West-leading Lakers would not go down without a fight. The Lakeshow came alive in the third period, trimming the Bucks’ lead to a single-digit deficit after the quarter. Then the Bucks would douse water to every Lakers’ attempt to come back, with Giannis capping the night with a pull-up three-pointer in the latter minutes of regulation.
In light of the morale-boosting victory, Antetokounmpo says that he is now seeing his hard work paying off, per Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"I'm happy I'm going through the process and I always want to be better, to do better for my team. And that's what gives me joy. Winning games, that's one. But improving and seeing the result at the end of the day and all the shots I made today, I made these shots like four, five years ago. And seeing them going in tonight, that gives me joy. That makes me want to work on other parts of my game that I can make those shots three years from now. That's what fills me up with joy."
Thursday night’s loss at the hands of the Bucks was the Lakers’ second consecutive defeat after falling to the Indiana Pacers a couple of nights prior. Davis returned from an ankle injury to pour in a game-high 36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. James came up with another triple-dub night of 21 points, 12 boards and 11 assists, while veteran gunner Danny Green contributed 21 markers, all coming from three-point territory.
Despite the loss, LeBron still expressed his joy in seeing him and his teammates building a much-needed chemistry on and off the court, as per Scott Cacciola of The New York Times.
“Nothing, really. I know what this team is all about. As close as you guys see us on the floor, we’re probably closer off the floor. And we continue to build chemistry, continue to build camaraderie. Pretty much every time anyone does anything, we pretty much do it together.”
The Lakers will have a much-needed two-day rest after embarking on a very exhausting five-game road trip. They will go back home to Staples Center to host Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
Westbrook pours in 40 as Rockets launch in Los Angeles
Displaying excellent character and tough grit, the Houston Rockets rallied back in the second half to hack out a hard-earned 122-117 win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Russell Westbrook had his best game as a Rocket, finishing with a game-high 40 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. James Harden also amassed his own double-double stat line of 28 points and 10 assists, and young budding center Clint Capela tallied 16 points, 8 boards and 4 steals as the Rockets notched their 19th win in 28 games this season.
Entering the break, the Rockets found themselves already trailing by 15 points. But they came out of the locker room inspired and fired up as they limited the Clippers to just 18 points in the third period. The Rockets turned that 15-point halftime deficit to a three-point lead entering the payoff period.
Westbrook was all over the floor in that third quarter run, doing everything from scoring, passing and defending. The former Most Valuable Player awardee emphasized that he is making conscious efforts to affect the game through winning plays on both offense and defense, as per the Rockets Wire.
“As the season goes along, I figure out a way to make my impact on the game. Whatever it is, scoring, defending, rebounding, passing. The game will kind of tell me what I need to do.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers also expressed his remorse on how his team defended the former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar. Rivers admitted that their defensive schemes were mainly focused on Harden, paving the way for Westbrook to come up with this brilliant performance.
“We give so much attention to Harden that we forget the other MVP that’s on their team. You’ve got to respect him and play him the right way.
I thought we lost our discipline a lot on him tonight, especially in transition. We were jabbing at the ball in the backcourt. Once he gets in front of you, you’re not catching him, at least nobody that I’ve seen. And I thought that happened over and over again in the second half.”
Paul George led the way for the Clippers with an all-around performance of 34 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Kawhi Leonard chipped in 25 points, 9 boards and 4 dimes, while Montrezl Harrell netted 19 markers off the bench. It was a very heated game between the two bitter rivals. The Clippers saw their key cogs Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams thrown out of the game as they seemingly lost their composure as the Rockets were mounting their comeback in the second half.
Jazz extends Hawks’ losing skid to six games
The Utah Jazz continue their ascent in the Western Conference standings as they defeated the lowly Atlanta Hawks, 111-106. Star shooting guard Donovan Mitchell topscored for his team with 30 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, while defensive big man Rudy Gobert displayed his offensive repertoire with 20 points, 13 boards and 3 blocks. Sweet-shooting forward Bojan Bogdanovic logged in a near double-double outing of 19 points and 9 rebounds, and versatile swingman Joe Ingles stuffed the stat sheet as he finished with 14 points, 7 boards, 5 dimes and 2 steals.
It was a back-and-forth game between the two teams, but it was the more experienced Jazz squad who came up with the crucial buckets in regulation. The win also extends their current winning streak to four games as they have now climbed to the sixth spot in the West standings.
Georges Niang, Utah’s back-up combo forward, emphasized that the team’s second unit is continuously growing as a group on the court, as per Jasen Lee of the Deseret News.
“I thought last night (against Atlanta), we did a great job of getting in there and maintaining the pace and continuing to build off what the starters were doing out there. I think it’s going to be a continual work in progress. We’re still getting to know each other and still working to get things done on a day-to-day basis — just working on us and trying to continuously improve.”
On the other side of the coin, the Hawks now fall to an embarrassing 6-23 record, the worst in the Eastern Conference. Trae Young again impressed with 30 points and 8 assists, while Jabari Parker came off the bench to produce 23 points, 9 rebounds and 5 dimes. Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish chipped in 17 and 14 markers, respectively. Atlanta will have an opportunity to bounce back as they travel to Brooklyn to go up against Spencer Dinwiddie and the Nets on Saturday.
Brooklyn Nets fell to the San Antonio Spurs, 105-118