Down by 10 approaching the last minute of the third quarter, a scuffle between squads proved to be the spark that the Lakers needed to make the game competitive again.
Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon committed a hard foul on Nick Young, who took exception and shoved Brogdon. Several other characters then got involved, as Greg Monroe pushed Young, while D’Angelo Russell defended his teammate by shoving back at Monroe.
After Young, Russell and Monroe were ejected from the game, the Lakers found their energy, bringing the score within two in the final minute. However, the Bucks held on for a 107-103 win.
”That might’ve been the first time all year (that) we all came together to defend one of our guys,” Larry Nance Jr. said. “It was good to see. It’s growth.”
Milwaukee (34-34) led by as many as 18 points in the third, as All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 14 of his 26 points in that frame.
Shortly after, Young (16 points) had an open layup before Brogdon swiped him on the head on his way up. Russell (14 points) and Monroe (12 points, 6-of-6) were then tossed for escalating the kerfuffle.
“It’s never all right if you’re gonna put your hands on one of my teammates,” said Nance, who was on the floor at the time.
It was a stark difference for Young, who recalled getting in a fracas in Phoenix two years ago, when none of his teammates came to his aid.
“I love the way these young guys stepped up for me,” Young said. “As a team — the whole coaching staff, players — we’ve got each others’ backs. That’s unity. That’s a team.”
The Lakers (20-49) kept hanging around from there, though Milwaukee used a late run spurred by Khris Middleton — who had 14 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter — to take a 10-point advantage with two minutes left.
But then L.A. found its mojo, led by Jordan Clarkson, who scored 11 fourth-quarter points on his way to leading the Lakers with 21.
The purple and gold scored seven unanswered points — highlighted by a driving slam by David Nwaba — to make it a three-point deficit with 7.9 seconds left.
After Brogdon hit free throws, Clarkson splashed a 3-pointer to bring it within two, but the Lakers simply ran out of time.
Nonetheless, head coach Luke Walton felt there was something to be said about how they responded against a Bucks squad that has now won eight of its last nine games.
“In the second half, I loved the way our guys played,” head coach Luke Walton said. “The passion they played with, the energy and the fight. I was really, really pleased with it — especially against a team playing as well as any team in the league right now.”
John Henson had four of Milwaukee’s nine blocks. … Ivica Zubac scored 18 points with eight rebounds, while Julius Randle had four points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. … The Bucks shot just 4-of-24 on 3-pointers, while the Lakers hit 16-of-26 on free throws. … A sold-out crowd of 18,997 filled Staples Center.