Nobody said it would be easy for the Milwaukee Bucks (48-14) on Friday night. However, a decisive 15-2 run late in the fourth quarter ended the Los Angeles Lakers (30-32) bid for a huge win on their home court. The 131-120 victory was nip and tuck throughout most of the night. Yet, the Bucks had too much firepower down the stretch.
Eric Bledsoe was fresh off of re-upping his contract with the Bucks. A four-year $70 million extension should set the Bucks up for years to come. He also may have played the best basketball of his entire career in last night’s win. Bledsoe led the charge with 31 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Normally, Giannis Antetokounmpo is the main attraction. LeBron James is always the focal point. However, Bledsoe took control of the game with an assortment of moves into the lane and a big 3-pointer.
Backcourt mate Malcolm Brogdon also made a huge 3-pointer with the Bucks up three. The corner three came directly after a steal on an inbounds. As a result, the Bucks turned a tie game into a 6-point lead. Moments later, Bledsoe connected on a wide open three and the Bucks took an insurmountable 9-point advantage.
Meanwhile, the Lakers coughed up the ball on three consecutive possessions during winning time. They only had nine turnovers in the whole contest. James produced 31 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds in the loss. He wasn’t able to make any big plans when the game was on the line. However, James was brilliant throughout the first three quarters of the game.
Brandon Ingram continued to shine with 31 points and 8 rebounds. He shot 13 of 21 from the field. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Kyle Kuzma had an off night, shooting 5 of 18 for 12 points. Rajon Rondo came out firing from 3-point range and finished with 20 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds.
Still, the balance from the Bucks was undeniable. Yes, Bledsoe scored 31. However, the Bucks had seven players with double figures. Khris Middleton poured in 18 points and 6 assists. Pat Connaughton contributed off the bench with nine big points.
You can say the Antetokounmpo was held in check. You can also say it proves how deep the Bucks truly are as a basketball team. Antetokounmpo had 16 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. He also shot 7 of 14 from the field. It was the type of performance that you may have to win in the playoffs.
That’s exactly where the Bucks are headed. The Bucks clinched a playoff spot with 20 games remaining in the season. They have won a league-leading seven straight games. They remain 2.5 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors in the east. The Bucks have won 10 straight road games.
Meanwhile, the Lakers aren’t so fortunate. They are currently No. 10 in the Western Conference and 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot. The San Antonio Spurs hold the final playoff spot, while the Los Angeles Clippers are in the No. 7 seed.
The Lakers head to the Phoenix Suns for a road game on Saturday. The playoff-bound Bucks will visit the Utah Jazz on Saturday in what could be the biggest threat to ending their win streak.