So… are the Lakers as good as the Bucks this season? Or are they better?
This LA team believes they’ve proven themselves with last week’s win over the top Milwaukee Bucks. And can you blame them? They followed it up by beating the Clippers on Sunday, which gave them another confidence boost – as if they needed it! Since February, the Lakers are a league-best 13-2. After a seven-year playoff drought, LA has locked down its spot in the postseason, and every further win just increases morale even more. They’re the real deal, all right. But with LeBron’s groin feeling sore and a little load management on the horizon, can they remain strong throughout the postseason?
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The Lakers just put an end to the Bucks’ 14-game winning streak, defeating one of the country’s best offenses and defenses by 10 points in what most consider to be their biggest test since the All-Star Break… not to mention a potential NBA Finals preview. They’ve jumped to number one in the NBA’s Power Rankings for Week 21, yes, ahead of the Bucks. As it stands now, the Lakers have a regular-season record of 49-14 while the Bucks boast a big 53-13. So close.
In LA’s game versus Milwaukee on Friday, the Lake Show forced 20 turnovers while LeBron handled defensive duties against Giannis Antetokounmpo, something Anthony Davis has been charged with prior to this matchup. (Similarly, LeBron took over AD’s defense duties when it came to the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard on Sunday.) Speaking of defense, the Lakers have also had the league’s best defensive improvement since the break.
According to LeBron, “It’s a really good weekend for us. Playing against two of the best teams … No matter what was going on throughout the course of the game, we held our composure and continued to get stops, continued to execute.”
Granted, the Bucks did have their worst offensive game of the year against LA. And it certainly didn’t help matters that Giannis suffered a knee sprain in the fourth quarter. He’s currently awaiting the results of his MRI, but sports experts say that this will probably end the Bucks’ race to 70 wins this season. They don’t need ’em anyway. But right now, the Lakers are still chasing the Bucks for the best record in the NBA, because with it comes home-court advantage in any potential NBA Finals matchup.
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Injuries are definitely on the minds of Lakers coaches and fans too. On Tuesday, LeBron felt some discomfort in his groin, but he decided to dress out and play against the Nets anyway. They lost that game, but at least now that they’ve clinched their spot in the playoffs, so they can afford to lose a couple. And they can afford to rest James too – they’ll need to before the postseason to avoid a flare-up of last season’s devastating injury, that’s for sure. But keep in mind that the Lakers do still need to lock down that number one seed in the West. So yeah, priorities…
According to head coach Frank Vogel, “He had some soreness after the game the other night. We’re going to be cautious with it. Big-picture mindset.”
After a weekend of big games, the Lakers fell to the Nets on Tuesday in a 102-104 battle, and hey, some say they had it coming! But LA can’t afford to keep giving up winnable games if they hope to pass the Bucks for the best record in the NBA.
Now they’ve got four more games against Western Conference teams who are all bound for the playoffs – the Houston Rockets on Thursday, Denver Nuggets on Sunday, and Utah Jazz on Monday and Wednesday. Oh, and all those teams have top-ten offenses, so let’s see what the Lakers and LeBron can do!