(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Lakers vs. Bucks: 3 Things to Know (3/1/19)

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers face the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks.

1) Strong debut for the new starting five
The Lakers shook up their first unit in Wednesday’s win over New Orleans, starting 6-foot-1 point guard Rajon Rondo in place of 7-foot center JaVale McGee.

Rondo was excellent in his return to the starting lineup, handing out a season-high 16 assists. He dissected the Pelicans’ pick-and-roll coverages, which also led to his own crunch-time offense, as he scored eight points in the fourth quarter.

And the turn to small-ball worked, in large part, thanks to LeBron James’ ability to toggle between both big-man positions.

James has been extraordinary in his nine games since returning from injury, averaging 25.4 points, 10.4 assists and 10.1 rebounds. And in Wednesday’s performance — which included a 33-point, 10-assist line — he provided the biggest shot of them all.

Up by three with 33 seconds left, LeBron found himself cornered with the shot clock running down. But the four-time MVP showed zero panic, instead draining an absurd, one-legged fadeaway 3-pointer to seal the victory.


2) B.I. and Kuz are hitting their stride
Brandon Ingram has taken his game to new heights in the Lakers’ last four contests, scoring 23-plus points in each. He has averaged 27.8 points during this stretch, showing fearlessness when attacking the basket and a willingness to create contact and draw fouls.

Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma is also in the midst of a surge. Over his last seven games, the sophomore has hit 52.9 percent of his shots — including a promising 41.9 percent from 3-point range — while averaging 23.0 points.

And while Kuzma went without a triple during Wednesday’s win, he did provide the most explosive sequence of the night. The Pelicans had seized a lead midway through the third quarter when Kuzma launched himself for three rim-rocking dunks in only two minutes, turning the momentum in L.A.’s favor.

3) Milwaukee is the class of the NBA
The Bucks enter this matchup with a league-leading 47-14 record, having won 18 of their last 20 games.

The only team among the top five in both offensive and defensive rating, Milwaukee lights up the scoreboard with its constant assaults on the rim and high-volume 3-point shooting, then smothers its opponents with its long-armed defenders.

MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo is the heart of the team, ranking among the NBA’s top 10 in scoring, rebounds, field goal percentage and free throws. The league-leader in both paint scoring and dunks, Antetokounmpo is nearly impossible to keep from the basket due to his world-class blend of athleticism, size and length.

And the rest of the starting unit is stacked as well. Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Brook Lopez (and sixth man Nikola Mirotic) surround Giannis with shooting, while Eric Bledsoe provides even more slashing inside.

Injury Report
Lakers:
Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) and Lance Stephenson (left foot, second toe sprain) are out. Isaac Bonga and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.
Bucks: Sterling Brown (right wrist soreness), George Hill (left groin strain) and Donte DiVincenzo (bilateral heel bursitis) are out.

Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet in L.A. ESPN nationally
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Purple City
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California

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