Fear the Deer.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 16 points and 15 rebounds, and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-120, on Friday night at Staples Center.
LeBron James played 39 minutes, his sixth consecutive game with 37 or more minutes, and finished with 31 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds in the loss.
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"It's win or lose. That's it," said James after the loss. "Obviously, you want to build, but it's win or lose in that particular moment. I'm a guy who lives in the present."
Despite the lopsided final score, the Lakers appeared to be in the driver's seat for most of the game. Los Angeles led at the half, and built a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter.
"I thought against one of the best teams in the league, we really played well," said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. "And then for some reason we kind of fell apart at the end there."
The Lakers were riding high off the momentum of their victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, and came out with the intensity, urgency, and energy needed to keep pace with the NBA's best team.
Brandon Ingram started the game 8-for-8, and finished with 31 points and eight rebounds, he also had one memorable highlight worthy dunk over an old friend.
Ingram posterized his former teammate, Brook Lopez, when he drove the lane for a one-handed slam in the third quarter.
"I would have rather got the win," Ingram said about his dunk over Lopez after the game. "I'm just continuing to be aggressive. It's been fun for me to get out on the floor and just be aggressive and go at my defener all the time, rebound the basketball and enjoy playing with my teammates."
Two days after playing just 24 minutes in Sacramento, Giannis was on the court for 32 minutes on Friday, and helped lead a 12-0 run at the end of the third quarter to erase the Lakers large lead.
"I think we have patience," said Giannis of the comeback. "Offensively, we were trying to find the best man available and that was Eric [Bledsoe] down the stretch. Defensively, we were just covering one another...that's why we were able to make a run."
Los Angeles fought hard in the fourth quarter, as the back-and-forth battle that featured 20 different lead changes came down to the wire.
The Lakers trailed by three with 1:54 left, but turned the ball over on the inbounds pass and Malacom Brogdon sank a three to put Milwaukee up six. Seconds later, after another turnover, Eric Bledsoe sank a three-pointer to put the Bucks up nine, all but sealing the Lakers fate. Milwaukee closed the game on a 15-2 run over the final two minutes.
"We just had a couple turnovers. That inbounds really hurt us. Brogdon hit a big three," said Lakers' forward Kyle Kuzma who had 12 points. "Then Bledsoe hit that three, and that mentally depleted us."
Bledsoe finished with a team-high 31 points and nine rebounds. Brogdon had 21, Khris Middleton chipped in 18, and Lopez had 11. Seven different players scored in double figures for Milwaukee.
"It was another great fourth quarter and we're continuing to grind and find a way to win a game on the road when I don't think we were at our best," said Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer. "I think the Lakers had something to do with us not being at our best, but obviously an impressive finish by Eric Bledsoe individually."
After starting the game 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, Rajon Rondo hit four three-pointers, and finished with 20 points.
"Offensively, it's not the problem," said Rondo. "It's continous defensive woes that we're having. Give them credit. They made shots. They're a very deep team, but at the same time, when it counted most, we didn't get stops."
The Lakers are among the league's worst in defense over the last 15 games. They allow over 122 points per game (30th) and over 20 fast break points to their opponents. The Bucks had 20 on Friday.
The Bucks bench outscored the Lakers 34-21. Los Angeles was improved from the free throw line, shooting 83 percent.
For the second straight game a fan hit a half-court shot, but the Lakers were unable to secure the win after the big basket that takes place between the third and fourth quarters.
On Wednesday, a fan sank the shot and took home a check for a cool $100,000. On Friday, the jackpot was only $25,000, but still a hefty prize for the attendee. The Lakers fell to 8-2 in games a fan sinks the half-court shot promotion.
Milwaukee has won four consecutive games against the Lakers, and seven games overall. They clinched a playoff spot with the victory.
"I didn't know we made the playoffs, that's amazing," said Giannis when he was told. "It's still 20 games left and we have momentum going. Guys keep taking it step by step, game by game, getting better and trust one another. We just need to keep winning games."
Both teams were playing the front end of a back-to-back, and will meet again in a rematch in on March 19 in Milwaukee.
Play of the Game:
Brandon Ingram, who was a perfect 8-for-8 from the field for 16 points in the first half, put Bucks' forward Nikola Mirotic through the spin cycle and drove baseline for the reverse one-handed slam.
Notes and Next
Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) did not play in the game. Lance Stephenson sat out with a sprained right toe.
Los Angeles will travel to the Valley of the Sun for the second night of a back-to-back in Phoenix on Saturday.