The Milwaukee Bucks come into tonight’s match-up in a battle with the Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in the NBA. Though the Sixers are a game away from tying the NBA record for losing streaks (they currently sit on 25-straight losses), the Bucks have managed to maintain the worst record in the NBA. Milwaukee is sitting on an eight-game losing streak, and have had a miserable season from the outset. However, the Bucks did beat the Lakers handily on New Year’s Eve 94-79, one of the team’s thirteen wins on the year. It will be interesting to see if the Lakers can maintain the positive momentum they gained in their record-breaking performance against the Knicks on Tuesday night, which saw them put up a franchise-record 51 points in the third quarter.
Frontcourt: With starting center Larry Sanders out for the year and starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova questionable for tonight’s matchup, the Bucks will likely start Zaza Pachulia at center and Jeff Adrien at power forward. Pachulia is a solid backup center who plays physical around the rim. The Lakers have to be sure to take away easy baskets from him, especially on offensive rebounds. Pachulia struggles from the field (just 40% from the floor on the year) and is unlikely to hurt the Lakers unless he gets easy opportunities at the basket.
Power forward/center John Henson is an intriguing piece off the bench for the Bucks. He has the ability to change the game with his athleticism, particularly on plays above the rim on both offense and defense. Henson averages 10.7 points and 7 rebounds per game to go with nearly two blocks a night. He, like Pachulia and Adrien, is limited offensively from the outside as well as on the block. With Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill likely to start again for the Lakers, the Lakers should have an advantage inside against the Bucks.
Backcourt: Brandon Knight, who unfortunately is best known for being on a DeAndre Jordan poster, is having a solid season in his first year with the Bucks. Knight is a shoot-first point guard who is probably best served in a Jamal Crawford-type bench role due to his ability to put up points in a hurry. Knight is the team’s leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, and he burned the Lakers for 37 in their only match-up so far this season. The Lakers have to force Knight to give up the ball in pick-and-roll situations, as he is one of the only players on the Bucks’ roster that can create his own shot.
Journeyman and former Laker Ramon Sessions, who is another shoot-first point guard type, has been starting with Knight in the backcourt. Sessions excels in the open court and has the quickness to get to the rim in halfcourt sets as well. The Lakers would be best served to go under all on-ball screens for Sessions and dare him to beat them from the outside. He only attempts a hair over one three-pointer per game, and connects on only 28% of them.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Contain Penetration: The on-ball defense of the Laker backcourt has been perhaps the worst in the NBA this season. Keeping both Sessions and Knight in check is the top priority for the Lakers tonight on the defensive end and will be the difference between a win and loss. The Bucks are severely lacking in offensive talent at the forward and center spots, so their hopes will rest on Sessions and Knight.
Continued Strong Bench Play: The Laker bench was red-hot in the victory over New York on Tuesday, as they put up an astounding 82 points as a unit. When the whole team has been healthy, the Lakers have actually had one of the more productive benches in the league. Nick Young, Kent Bazemore, and Xavier Henry all must maintain their aggressiveness and put pressure on the Bucks’ defense.
Share the Ball: High assist totals have been a common theme in victories for the Lakers this season. As a team that relies on threes heavily like the Lakers, penetration to create opportunities for others is critical. The Lakers have to be willing to make the extra pass when the defense collapses on them to get open looks.
Los Angeles Lakers (24-46) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (13-58)
5:00 PM PST, March 27, 2014
BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 ESPNLA
Bucks Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Brandon Knight
SG: Ramon Sessions
SF: Khris Middleton
PF: Jeff Adrien
C: Zaza Pachulia
Key Reserves: SG Giannis Antetokounmpo, C John Henson, SG O.J. Mayo
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Chris Kaman
Lakers’ Kobe Bryant Meets With Jim Buss, ‘Goal Is To Win And Win Now’