LeBron James vs. Milwaukee
LeBron James directs the offense against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 1, 2019.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Lakers Fall Late in Toe-to-Toe Clash With League-Leading Bucks

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

The King provided the brilliance that has flowed throughout his 16-year career. The Kid showed the promise that could define the remainder of his.

Yet while LeBron James and Brandon Ingram unleashed matching 31-point eruptions, the Lakers’ offense went dry at the wrong time and the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks took advantage.

A lead with three minutes remaining evaporated into a 15-2 Bucks run to end the game, as Milwaukee captured a 131-120 win over Los Angeles.

Ingram has been electrifying over his last five games, averaging 28.4 points on 58.0 percent shooting. And the 21-year-old unleashed his full arsenal against the NBA’s best defense on Friday.

Milwaukee is known for its gallery of long defenders, but Ingram was even lengthier, consistently hitting fadeaways and pull-up jumpers over the Bucks’ contesting arms.

He hit his first nine shots of the game, mixing in some stop-and-start drives, while highlighting the night with a spin move into a reverse dunk and a fast-break poster slam in the face of former teammate Brook Lopez.

“I think of it [like] me growing up as a kid, just playing basketball,” Ingram said, “so I always go back to that feeling and how I dreamed of being here. It’s just been fun for me to get out on the floor and just be aggressive and go at my defender all the time, rebound the basketball and enjoy playing with my teammates.”

James also came ready for a marquee matchup, flirting with a triple-double and finishing with a 31-point, 10-assist, seven-rebound line. He steamrolled off the dribble, particularly when Milwaukee put bigger, slower defenders on him, and hit his jumpers when given space to shoot.

Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo hardly wanted for shooting room. The Bucks purposefully had his defender pack the paint against the Lakers’ drives, daring Rondo to fire away.

He did just that, hoisting 12 3-point attempts — five more than his previous career-high. Milwaukee’s gamble paid off at first, as Rondo missed his first five treys, but he found a rhythm and made four of his last seven, finishing with 20 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

The Lakers (30-32) even did a solid job of limiting MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. A human sledgehammer in the paint, the “Greek Freak” had 16 points on 14 shot attempts, while adding 15 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

But Eric Bledsoe had his own MVP-caliber moment for Milwaukee (48-14), as one of the league’s best slashers shot 10-of-13 inside the arc en route to 31 points.

“We had our chances,” James said. “We broke down individually down the stretch defensively — too many breakdowns, one-on-one breakdowns. Bled, he brought them home.”

Nonetheless, the Lakers seized a two-point lead with three minutes remaining, as unselfish ball movement led to an open triple for LeBron.

But in a game that included 20 lead changes and 17 ties, the Bucks were prepared for one more run.

Bledsoe unleashed his wicked handle for a lead-stealing and-1 layup. Milwaukee free throws put the Lakers down by three, and they took, a timeout to get organized.

But L.A. failed to inbound the ball, committing one of only nine turnovers on the night. Malcolm Brogdon took advantage by sinking a triple, and Bledsoe added one of his own as the dagger.

With 20 games left in the season, the Lakers are now 3 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the final spot in the Western Conference. They have no time to rest, as they immediately hit the airport for Saturday’s game against the Suns.

“It’s win or lose,” James said. “That’s it. Obviously you want to build, but it’s win or lose in that particular moment. I’m a guy who lives in the present.

“So we have to be great tomorrow against Phoenix. We can’t say, ‘OK, we were great for 3 1/2 quarters against Milwaukee.’ … We have to be great against Phoenix and hit the restart button.”

A fan — Logan Thomas of Parker City, Indiana — hit a half-court shot to win the $25,000 Bellagio Big Shot Jackpot, becoming the second winner in as many games. Dean Tran won $100,000 in the contest on Wednesday. … Milwaukee shot 51.6 percent from the field with 30 assists and only 11 turnovers. … Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Ellen Pompeo were among the sold-out crowd.

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