Bucks Beat Lakers 115-101 with LeBron James, Giannis Both Out with Injuries

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2019

MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 19:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers on March 19, 2019 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images).
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

The two names atop the marquee sat out, but the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks persevered to play basketball nonetheless.

Khris Middleton scored 30 points and Brook Lopez added 28 points and nine rebounds, leading the Bucks to a 115-101 win over the struggling Lakers on Tuesday.

The Lakers have lost nine of their last 10 games and four straight. LeBron James, who missed 11 shots in the fourth quarter and had his shot blocked by Mario Hezonja on a game-winning attempt as time expired Sunday against the New York Knicks, sat out for the second time in three games. The Lakers are planning to manage James' workload the rest of the season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out with an ankle sprain suffered in Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Bucks are 4-2 without Antetokounmpo this season. 

Nikola Mirotic also added 23 points, as the Bucks chucked up 47 threes without their MVP candidate.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored a game-high 35 points off the bench for the Lakers, who are inching closer to being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. 

         

Bucks Show They Have Offensive Firepower Even Without Giannis 

OK, sure, it's the Lakers.

And, fine, it was the Lakers without LeBron, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram—a glorified G-League team.

But the Bucks likely built some confidence with their roster Tuesday, dominating the porous Lakers defense and adjusting well without Giannis. Most of that came in the form of chucking threes. Their 47 attempts were their fifth-highest tally of the season, and they've now attempted 97 over their past two games.

The big-man duo of Lopez and Mirotic hit eight threes combined, while Middleton added four of his own. Their ability to get open shots without Antetokounmpo was particularly promising, as Eric Bledsoe atoned for an off shooting night by setting his teammates up for open shots. The point guard finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and four steals in a solid all-around performance.

Middleton also got more freedom off the bounce, though he matched a season high with six turnovers.

The Bucks won't have to play for long stretches with Giannis on the bench in the playoffs. His minutes will probably tick up close to the 40-per-game mark, and head coach Mike Budenholzer has long been great at staggering his rotations.

The key for Milwaukee, likely beginning in Round 2, is how the team fares in those minutes without the MVP candidate. The Bucks have still outscored their opponents with Giannis on the bench this season, but their offensive rating has dipped nearly seven points, per Basketball Reference.

This was the second time the Bucks have operated without him since acquiring Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans, so Tuesday's result was promising.

Yes, even if it came against one of the league's tankiest teams. 

What's Next?

The Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. The Bucks travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers on Wednesday.

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