On Friday night, Eric Bledoe scored 39 points to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over the Los Angeles Lakers in overtime, 124-122.
Lonzo Ball wasn't availabe to play due to a knee injury and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope disagreed with the officials enough to get ejected in the first half. Added to all that, Brandon Ingram eventually went down with a neck muscle contusion at the start of overtime and ended up in concussion protocol.
Initial results for a concussion tests came back negative, and Ingram is set to be reevaluated on Saturday.
The Lakers started the night setting fire to the nets and making 12 of their first 13 attempts from the field, which translated to 92 percent shooting. By the end of the quarter, the Lakers had cooled to 79 percent, which was still an abnormally high shooting percentage. Still, they trailed by five points after 12 minutes.
Led by Khris Middleton's 15 points in the first quarter, the Bucks enjoyed a 39-34 edge after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Caldwell-Pope voiced his frustrations with the officials and even had to be held back by teammates and coaches after he felt a foul should have been called. Two technical fouls were called, and the Lakers trailed by double-digits when Caldwell-Pope got tossed from the game.
His ejection did not make the already short-handed Lakers' job any easier.
Rookie Josh Hart made his return from a fracture in his hand and expected to play significant minutes with Ball out, but with Caldwell-Pope in the locker room for the entire second half and overtime, the 23-year-old played even heavier minutes than originally anticipated. By the end of the night, Hart had logged 35 minutes after last playing an NBA game on Feb. 26. The rookie ended the night with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Bucks took advantage of the short-handed Lakers running on fumes and built out a 20-point lead in the third quarter. The game looked lost and the fourth quarter seemed like an unnecessary exercise for the home team.
But then, Ivica Zubac woke up the crowd by throwing down a series of dunks and bringing the Lakers within eight points with 10 minutes remaining in the game. By the time Zubac exited the game with 5:22 remaining in regulation, the Lakers were down by a single point.
Zubac logged 16 points and five rebounds in only 12 minutes on the night, including 12 points and three rebounds in his shift at the start of the fourth quarter.
"I was just running the floor, setting the screens, trying to be a dunker, get a few offensive rebound, and that’s how I got myself going," Zubac said after the game.
Alex Caruso, who is on a two-way contract with the team, played a major role in the second half and played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter and all five minutes of the over time. Caruso deserved a great deal of credit for LA's comeback, and the point guard expects to play in Oklahoma City on Saturday for a G-League playoff game before re-joining the LA Lakers on Sunday night at STAPLES Center.
After Walton went back to his starters for the end of the fourth quarter, along with Caruso, neither team managed to create separation. With 90 seconds remaining, Julius Randle tied the game at 112-112 and neither team managed to score over that final minute and a half. Consequently, the game went to overtime.
"The first pretty much three quarters, it was as bad as I've seen us play defensively," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game. "They were shooting rhythm shots. Bledsoe might as well as have been in a gym by himself shooting three-pointers."
Walton added, "What we take away from it is in the NBA, you're never out of it. Twenty-point game, two minutes left in the third quarter, just possession-by-possession, you always have a chance in this league."
In the overtime, the Lakers quickly dug a nine-point hole and also lost Ingram to injury. However, rookie Kyle Kuzma, who finished with a team-high 27 points, along with 12 rebounds and six assists in 46 minutes, helped the Lakers' mount a second late comeback in the game.
With 49.8 seconds remaining, the Lakers trailed by a single point. After both teams missed shots, the Lakers fouled Giannis Antetokounmpo with 16.4 seconds remaining. While the Bucks' star took his foul shots, Walton told Kuzma and Caruso a play to tie the game--only Antetokounmpo didn't make his second foul shot.
Rather than call timeout, Walton preferred to allow his team to take advantage of the Bucks before they set their defense. With the missed free throw, the Lakers only needed two points to tie, but Kuzma opted to stick with the play and took the three-pointer.
The shot missed, and the Lakers eventually fell 124-122.
After saying he would have liked to see Kuzma attack the rim down by two points, Walton conceded, "He got a good look at it, and Kuz has a tendency to make big shots."
"We came back from 20," Kuzma said. "I just wanted to go for the win."
Notes: Antetokounmpo finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds and four assists on the night, while Middleton added 28 points for the Bucks before fouling out. Randle finished the night with 20 points and 10 rebounds.