Anthony Davis shoots over Giannis Antetokounmpo

Three Things to Know: Lakers at Bucks - 11/17/21

by Mike Trudell

The Lakers (8-7) open a 5-game road trip at Milwaukee on Wednesday evening in a matchup between the last two NBA champions. The game tips at 4:30 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

NBA teams – or really any teams – don’t want to use excuses after losses, but there is one rational explanation of Monday night’s 121-103 drubbing at the hands of the Bulls: L.A. looked pretty tired. With all of the injuries early in the season, it’s been a small group of players playing big minutes, and it showed on the 5-game homestand, with no more than one day between any of the games, ending in the Sunday/Monday back-to-back.

One way tired legs shows itself is through shooting, where L.A. made just 6 of 32 3’s on the evening (18.8 percent), compared to Chicago’s red hot 15 of 34 (44.1 percent). Another is in transition defense, where the Bulls managed to outscore L.A. 20-12. LeBron James has played just six of 15 games, and neither Kendrick Nunn nor Trevor Ariza has seen the court, not to mention Austin Reaves, who’s missed the last three. That’s led to vets like Carmelo Anthony playing 37, 38, 23, 30 and 28 minutes across the 5-game home stand, where he started hot (7 of 10 from 3 vs. Charlotte) but finished cold (4 for 20 in the next four).

The Lakers will have to find their legs against the Bucks, however, as Milwaukee has been off since Nov. 14, and is carry a two-game losing streak. They're also expecting to get Khris Middleton back for the first time since Oct. 30, when he entered the NBA's health and safety protocols.

Impressively, there was at least one Laker who appeared pretty fresh: Talen Horton-Tucker, who turns 21 on Nov. 25. THT played 27 minutes in his season debut on Sunday night, and then 37 more minutes on Monday, starting both games of a back-to-back despite having not played since an Oct. 8 preseason game due to thumb surgery.

He went off for 28 points, a career high, against Chicago, hitting four triples, on top of the 17 points he managed against San Antonio on Sunday.

His fellow Chicago native, Anthony Davis, was impressed after the win over the Spurs:

“To come back his first game and do what he did was unreal,” David explained. “He’s a young guy who loves to learn. He comes in and scores the ball, was great defensively for us. Made big plays. I’m impressed. First game and to come and do what he did to help us win was huge and a testament to his hard work. A lot of guys, you come back and you’re kind of rusty but he came in like he had been playing with us this whole time. It’s the work he’s been able to put in. Even though he’s had his injury, he’s still been able to take his work seriously, his conditioning seriously. It’s also that he’s 20 years old too. To come in and play the way that he played definitely helped us get this win.”

The Bulls came out with a super aggressive defensive scheme geared towards keeping the ball out of the hands of Anthony Davis, and that really took its toll, at least for one game, as AD had only attempted two shots by halftime. He ended up getting ejected at the end of the third quarter, just the second time he’s been tossed in his career.

“We haven’t seen that type of double team this year,” said Vogel. “Credit Chicago for being very aggressive. They were trying to take him out of the game with post frontals and Immediate double teams. With a new group, we didn’t adjust to it very well. We missed open threes on the backside. We turned the ball over too much, we had too many bad possessions early on trying to get AD involved. A part of a new season with a new group is all these guys are new to playing with Anthony, they’re trying to figure that out. Understanding where we want to go to when we see a defense like that.”

Will Milwaukee try to mimic the strategy ahead of Wednesday’s action? Of course, teams have been aggressive with Davis in the past, but it’s certainly harder to do that with LeBron James on the court. Vogel has been calling LeBron “day-to-day” for a few days now, but a return does seem imminent at some point on the road trip.

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