L.A. Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Postgame Grades and Analysis for L.A.

Sean Hojnacki@@TheRealHojnackiFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2013

L.A. Lakers vs. Milwaukee Bucks: Postgame Grades and Analysis for L.A.

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    Facing the Milwaukee Bucks in the Land of the Cheeseheads, the Los Angeles Lakers came up short, 113-103, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Thursday night.

    In a game that featured 18 lead changes, it was an uneven effort for L.A., encapsulated by Kobe Bryant's 30 points on 6-of-17 shooting.

    For Milwaukee, Larry Sanders went bananas, scoring 21 points, grabbing 13 boards (six offensive) and blocking two shots.

    After leading by as many as 13 points, the Lakers had a slim 56-53 lead at the half. They shot 51.4 percent in the half (almost eight percent better than the Bucks), but Milwaukee's advantage on the offensive glass (7-2) helped close that shooting gap. 

    The Lakers were reckless with the ball, committing eight turnovers in the first half and eight more in the third quarter alone. In addition to Steve Nash's lower back, which acted up and limited him to just seven second-half minutes, the turnovers were a big reason L.A. trailed 82-77 after three.

    L.A. came out strong to start the fourth quarter, scoring the first six points and briefly taking advantage while the Bucks rested Sanders.

    The Lakers led with under nine minutes left, but eight points in three minutes from Monta Ellis helped Milwaukee pull away. The Bucks reeled off a 17-4 run and coasted to victory the rest of the way.

    The Lakers came into the contest only a game ahead of the Utah Jazz and 1.5 games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks for the final playoff spot. And with this loss, the margin for error becomes even thinner as the Lakers limp toward regular season's end.

    Meanwhile, despite a losing record and having lost seven of their last 10 games, the Bucks are still well ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for the eighth spot in the East. Milwaukee will be grinding it out down the stretch as they try to nip the Boston Celtics for the seventh seed, a coveted slot which would avoid a first-round collision with the Miami Heat.

    Strangely, the biggest game of the night for many Milwaukee fans took place in Washington, D.C., between Marquette and Miami. The Golden Eagles' upset win in the Sweet 16 was the entree, but the Bucks' gritty victory over the Lakers must be a pretty sweet dessert. 

    Still, it wasn't all bad for the Lakers, and a look at their report card shows it.

Point Guard

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    Steve Nash, PG: A-

    Steve Nash came alive in the first half, torching the Bucks for 14 points and five dimes. He also snagged a pair of steals.

    But Mike Trudell on the Time Warner CSN telecast reported in the third quarter that Nash was having his hip and lower back worked on and he did not play at all in the fourth. 

    Nash finished with 16 points on 5-of-7 shooting and six dimes in 23 minutes.

    It's probably just a minor issue that can crop up in the latter stages of a back-to-back, but the Lakers obviously cannot afford to have anyone else go down. 

Shooting Guard

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    Jodie Meeks, SG: C+

    Meeks can provide a nice scoring spark, but his liability on defense has been readily apparent. And the Bucks have one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league—Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings plus J.J. Redick.

    Meeks was serviceable in the first two quarters, scoring nine points, but he also finished the half with a team-worst minus-five rating.

    His offense disappeared in the second half and ended with just 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting from the field in 39 minutes. He was also caught on defense several times as Milwaukee pulled away in the second half. 

    In one very odd sequence in the third quarter, Meeks became a kleptomaniac who couldn't score. He grabbed a rebound and a steal on consecutive possessions, but he missed two layups and bricked a trey in those chances.

    Somehow, Steve Nash got two offensive rebounds and the Lakers got four points out of it.

Small Forward

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    Kobe Bryant, SF: B+

    Kobe led all scorers in the first half with 15 points, but he also committed five turnovers in the span. And it was that sort of game for Bryant all night long. 

    He racked up 30 points, but most of those came from his trips to the line, where he was 18-of-20. Kobe drew so many fouls, it was like watching Groundhog Day. His shooting, however, was erratic and he attempted too many contested fall-away jumpers, finishing 6-of-17 from the field. 

    And this wasn't one of those games where Kobe contributes in all areas, as he managed just three rebounds and two assists. Clearly the Kobe that dished 14 dimes in back-to-back games in January was just a cameo. 

    The Black Mamba also ended with a game-worst minus-16. Kobe had a good game, but, as everyone knows, can do so much better.

Power Forward

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    Pau Gasol, PF: B+

    In Wednesday's 120-117 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Gasol had 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting and nine boards.

    He was energetic again on Thursday, tallying five rebounds, a steal and a block in the first quarter against a tough Milwaukee frontcourt.

    Gasol finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and three assists, but he also fumbled away a couple of pretty passes on his way to committing four turnovers. He shot 6-of-12, but was also the only L.A. starter who didn't attempt a free throw. 

    The Lakers will need a little more from Pau if they want to see the postseason. The mid-range magic won't be enough.

    Still, Gasol's return from his plantar fascia problem is very timely for a lineup sorely lacking in depth after Metta World Peace's knee injury during Monday's loss to the Golden State Warriors.

    The Lakers will need some vintage Pau to power them down the stretch. And perhaps Mike D'Antoni is finally learning how to use him (thanks, Kobe). 


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    Dwight Howard, C: A-

    Howard swatted three shots in his first six minutes of court time, but he sat for the remainder of the first quarter with two fouls.

    Surprisingly, L.A. closed the first on an 8-0 run, and Howard avoided a third foul while playing almost all of the second quarter.

    Dwight played 38 minutes, limited himself to five personals and racked up 15 points and 15 boards. He shot 6-of-8 from the field, but just 3-of-10 from the line. That being said, a couple of extra foul shots wouldn't have won this one anyway.

Sixth Man

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    Antawn Jamison, PF: A-

    Antawn Jamison's value is boosted with the loss of Metta World Peace. Now let's see if he can deliver.

    Though consistency can be an issue, the veteran offers a multitude of skills, from defense to three-point shooting and possesses the size to help fill out the frontcourt. 

    Jamison only scored three points in the first half, but he led the team with a plus-11 rating at the break (finishing at plus-five). He dropped 10 second-half points and finished up with seven rebounds, but his performance was merely one of a few bright spots in a tough loss.

Rest of Bench

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    Rest of Bench: D

    Steve Blake knocked down a three-pointer in the first half and dished two assists, but he struggled mightily from the field in the second half, finishing just 2-of-8 from the field for the contest. 

    If Blake plays 31 minutes, he's got to offer more than six points.

    Earl Clark grabbed two boards and picked up two fouls in the first half, and that was about it. He missed a couple of shots in the second half and practically faded into thin air.

    Chris Duhon, Darius Morris, Devin Ebanks and Robert Sacre all did not play, as Mike D'Antoni deployed an eight-man rotation and did not go deeper into his bench even after Steve Nash came out. 

    The banged-up Lakers will next play the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night, and then return home for the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, Memphis Grizzlies on Friday and the L.A. Clippers on Sunday. 

    That stretch could decide the Lakers' playoff fate, and it's potentially only more bad news after that. They finish up the season against the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.