Milwaukee Bucks: How do they match up against the Los Angeles Lakers?

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 19 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 19 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks faced their toughest opponent of the season Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets in a defeat that went down to the closing seconds.

Now three days later, they are set to take on another top-tier opponent in the Los Angeles Lakers, the defending NBA champions. Los Angeles currently boasts the best record in the league at 11-4 and sit atop the Western Conference standings as they have yet to suffer any form of a “championship hangover.”

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Meanwhile, the Bucks are tied for second place in the Eastern Conference at 9-5 overall, and they will have their hands full trying to get back into the win column.

The Milwaukee Bucks will be tested by the Los Angeles Lakers on both ends.

Although a small sample size, this iteration of the Lakers could arguably be better than it was last season, and a significant reason for that has been their defense.

The Lakers currently have the best defense in the association with a 104.6 defensive rating, per Anthony Davis has been the catalyst for this defensive excellence, making his early case for Defensive Player of the Year after he missed out last year to none other than Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

With Davis at the helm, the Lakers have a formidable defensive unit for opposing offenses without question. However, the Bucks could be the team best equipped to combat that top-heavy defense because of their prolific offense that has the best offensive rating at 117.7 points per 100 possessions.

On the flip side, the Bucks’ 12th ranked defense could certainly run into issues against the Lakers’ fifth-ranked offense.

Despite being a defensive juggernaut over the past two regular seasons, the Bucks have not been able to replicate that same success this year, and the defense is a major work in progress. Although head coach Mike Budenholzer has shown a newfound willingness to make in-game adjustments when necessary, one of the team’s most glaring issues remains defending the 3-pointer, thanks to the drop-back defensive scheme.

The Lakers are currently ranked fifth in 3-point percentage across the league, coming in at 39.1 percent. With seven rotational players shooting above 36 percent from behind the arc, the Bucks will certainly be tasked with slowing down the Lakers’ scorers on the perimeter. Much like the game against the Brooklyn Nets, this game seems fit for Torrey Craig to finally break through the rotation due to his defensive prowess, particularly on the perimeter. However, that might just be a pipe dream.

It will be a battle of trios between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Lakers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday have been fantastic as Milwaukee’s leading three this season, and they will face off against another star-studded trio that needs little introduction. Along with the returning LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers acquired last year’s Sixth Man of the Year finalist Dennis Schröder in the offseason to round out their new ‘Big 3.’

While this game’s main focus will be fixated on these six, the second units from each side could also be a deciding factor in the outcome. LA’s bench has been stellar this season, currently putting up the second most bench points across the league at 41.5 per game.

On the other hand, Milwaukee’s reserves have been hit or miss and unable to find any consistency. Sometimes they look like they could be the best bench in the league, but inconsistencies have plagued them on the offensive end, currently scoring 36.4 points per contest, which ranks 18th in the league.

The bench has struggled in big-time matchups this season, and this game stands as arguably their biggest challenge thus far. If the second unit can break the trend of struggling when the lights are the brightest, the Bucks stand a far better chance of coming out on top.

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The Bucks and the Lakers are two of the bigger heavyweights in their respective conferences, and their two matchups against each other lived up to the hype. Hopefully, Thursday night can follow suit as well as help Milwaukee get back in the win column.