The Lakers and Bucks will face off at Staples Center on Friday night in what many might consider a potential preview of the 2020 NBA Finals. The Bucks and Lakers hold the top two records in the league, and are essentially coasting until the playoffs start in April. Until then, though, these two teams will get a good feeling of how they match up against each other in a highly anticipated meeting between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
When these two teams met earlier in the season in Milwaukee, Giannis' 34-point performance proved to be too much for LeBron and Anthony Davis to overcome. It also didn't help that the Bucks managed to come away with 14 steals to the Lakers four, and shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc. It's been three months since that meeting, though, and while neither team made season-altering moves at the trade deadline, they've remained consistent and rank at the top of the league in net rating, giving this game a playoff feel.
There's a lot to look at for this game, so let's break down what to expect from both sides, and make some predictions.
How To Watch
Lakers: After a shocking 17-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies last week, the Lakers responded with wins over the Pelicans and 76ers thanks to strong performances by LeBron and Davis. Still, though, the Lakers have yet to find consistent production from anyone outside of their top two players all season. We knew this would be an incredibly top-heavy team, but not to the point where the next leading scorer behind Davis and LeBron is Kyle Kuzma with 12.6 points per game.
In an attempt to change that, the Lakers recently signed Dion Waiters who is known to catch fire at a moment's notice. The only caveat with that, though, is that Waiters is stumbling into Los Angeles after being suspended several times by the Miami Heat this season and being cut by the Memphis Grizzlies. Perhaps he can take advantage of this second chance the Lakers are giving him, because if he's able to muster up a fraction of the years in Miami where he was averaging 14 points a game, that would greatly improve the depth issue the Lakers have.
Bucks: The Bucks really haven't been tested all season, and they play in the less competitive of the two conferences. However, that shouldn't diminish what this team has done so far, and that isn't limited to just Giannis either. Unlike the Lakers, the Bucks have a handful of players who can contribute on a nightly basis, with Khris Middleton, Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez all proving to be reliable scorers around Giannis.
This game will come down to which team's supporting cast will be able to contribute more. That's what happened in the last matchup between these two teams and the Bucks proved they had the better depth to come out on top. The Lakers added Waiters and Markieff Morris, but those don't exactly move the needle. Milwaukee has been getting consistent production from players not named Giannis all season, and even though the Lakers boast one of the best defenses in the league, the Bucks are just built top to bottom to get multiple guys looks on offense.
Game prediction, pick
As said above, this game comes down to the supporting cast, and the Bucks simply are superior in that regard. Unless Kyle Kuzma pops off for one of his random 20-point games -- which he really only does against inferior teams -- the Bucks depth will beat the Lakers top-heavy stars. Pick: Bucks +1.5