Bucks Clinch NBA Playoff Berth with Win vs. LeBron James, Lakers

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates with teammates against the Washington Wizards during the first half at Capital One Arena on February 2, 2019 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Milwaukee Bucks became the first NBA team to clinch a playoff spot with a 131-120 win over LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Friday night.       

Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 16 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in the victory, while Eric Bledsoe—who agreed to a four-year, $70 million contract extension earlier in the day, according to ESPN.com's Adrain Wojnarowski—logged a season-high 31 points. 

It marks the franchise's third consecutive postseason appearance. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Bucks clinch a playoff spot with a win in L.A. 😤 https://t.co/nYay5trc7b

Milwaukee (48-14) has been near the top of the Eastern Conference standings all season long following a 7-0 start. As a result, it has found itself in a battle with the Toronto Raptors (46-17) for home-court advantage.

The Bucks' breakout performance has been powered by an MVP-caliber season out of the 24-year-old Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak entered Friday averaging career highs in scoring (27.0 PPG game), rebounding (12.6 RPG) and assists (5.9 APG) while adding 1.4 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.

Antetokounmpo's strong season not only earned him his third career All-Star selection, but he was also the leading vote-getter in the East, making him a captain for the showcase exhibition.

Meanwhile, head coach Mike Budenholzer has gotten the most out of his players in his first year on the job—especially on offense. Milwaukee entered Friday's win ranked second in scoring (117.4) and three-pointers made (13.3) per game. That prolific attack has led the Bucks to pile up the wins with great frequency.

Milwaukee has already recorded its most wins in a single season since it won 52 back in 2000-01. That also marked the last time the team made it out of the first round, as it has failed to win a playoff series (0-8) over the last 17 years. 

The Bucks have inched closer to the second round in recent campaigns, taking the Toronto Raptors to six games in 2017 and the second-seeded Boston Celtics to seven games a year ago. As they finish out an impressive regular season, though, they will be expected to make some noise in the postseason.

Now that its playoff berth has been wrapped up, Milwaukee will focus on trying to capture home-court advantage and entering the playoffs as healthy as possible.