AD scored a season-high!
Tonight, your Los Angeles Lakers had probably their single-most meaningful win of the young 2022-23 season in besting a fairly complete Milwaukee Bucks team, playing at Fiserv Forum, by holding onto a late-game lead. And L.A.’s “Big Three” led the charge with three terrific performances, though everyone finally seemed to be aware of the team’s proper reshuffled hierarchy: Anthony Davis is now the man.
The Lakers and Bucks started off the game trading buckets. In a rarity, LeBron James went entirely scoreless for the first quarter. Anthony Davis more than picked up the offensive slack, kicking in 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. L.A. led after the first frame by a single point, 33-32.
AD’s chemistry with Lakers reserve guard Russell Westbrook was on-point once again, as you can see in this give-and-go fast break action:
James wouldn’t be scoreless for long. He did expend a lot of energy on the defensive end in a bit of a rarity, covering Giannis at the start of the second quarter while Anthony Davis rode pine. That said, tonight proved another reminder that this is not quite the same LeBron James who arrived in Los Angeles five seasons ago. He lacked his normal lift on drives (at one point he blew what looked like a “gimme” fast-break layup) and could be seen settling for setting up teammates or taking jumpers.
The Lakers went on an 8-3 run at the start of the frame. James chipped in six of those eight points. Los Angeles led by as many as 14 points in the period, but an ice-cold offensive stretch late allowed the Bucks to end the quarter on an 11-5 run. The Lakers led 66-58 heading into the half, thanks to a buzzer-beating turnaround fadeaway jumper from Anthony Davis.
L.A. shot an excellent 56.3% (27-of-48) from the floor in the first half, although their three-point shooting (4-of-12) left a lot to be desired.
Davis finished the half with a hyper-efficient 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field (and 1-of-1 from the charity stripe). He was the star of the show, generating a lot of his offense inside:
The Bucks’ Big Three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton combined for 33 points in the first two periods.
Milwaukee eventually caught up with the Lakers midway through the third quarter, even taking a brief 79-77 lead at one point, but L.A.’s own Big Three, plus Lonnie Walker IV, helped the team regain a marginal advantage at the end of the third quarter. The Lakers took a 101-97 lead into the final frame of regulation.
It was a veritable Battle of the Big Threes in the fourth quarter. For L.A., only Davis (15 points in the frame), James (13 points), and Westbrook (four points) scored at all in the frame. Westbrook and Davis looked to generate their offense in the paint, while James chipped in a mixture of layups and jumpers. Darvin Ham went with a lineup of his Big Three, flanked mostly by two-way wing threats Lonnie Walker and Austin Reaves, down the home stretch, with Patrick Beverley occasionally in for Walker or Westbrook.
Davis scored a season-high 44 points on 18-of-27 shooting from the floor (including 2-of-3 from deep!) and 6-of-7 shooting from the free-throw line. He notched his eighth straight double-double thanks to his 10 rebounds, and also contributed four assists and three blocks.
James score 28 points on 12-of-27 shooting from the field, grabbed eight rebounds and, notably, dished out 11 assists. Why is that assist tally so notable? Because his new career total of 10,144 dishes is the sixth-most in league regular season history, surpassing another Laker great, Magic Johnson, who had 10,141 assists in his 13-year career.
Westbrook poured in a pretty efficient 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting, passed for 11 assists, and grabbed seven rebounds.
Perhaps most crazily, for all that passing from the Lakers’ three priciest players, the trio combined for… zero turnovers!
Only one other Laker, Lonnie Walker, scored in double digits (14 points on 4-of-14 shooting). The team’s two plus-minus leaders were its two players signed to non-guaranteed contracts, power forward Austin Reaves (+17) and shooting guard Wenyen Gabriel (+14).
The Lakers as a whole also enjoyed a terrific shooting night as a team, going 52-of-97 from the field (53.6%), including 11-of-26 from the three-point line (42.3%), plus 18-of-24 from the free-throw line (75%). The Bucks took just 15 free throws, making 12, and took a lot more triples (they went 17-of-43 from deep for a comparable 39.5%).
Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 40 points of his own, plus seven rebounds and five assists. Jrue Holiday had 28 points, though he missed a pretty critical late triple, and Khris Middleton scored 17 points in his first game back since last spring.