The Lakers (37-35) have not won the 2nd game of their back-to-back in 14 tries the entire season. They hope their fortunes turn tonight against the reeling Milwaukee Bucks (34-36).
Tonight's game is also a back-to-back for the Bucks after losing to the lowly 76ers on the road. But unlike the Lakers, Milwaukee have won 6 of their 11 2nd night of a 2-games-in-2-nights schedule. However, the Bucks are barely above .500 at home posting an 18-17 record. In fact, they have dropped 3 of their last 5 games at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and are currently riding a 4-game skid overall.
The Lakers snapped their 3-game losing streak against the Timberwolves last night, 120-117, allowing them to maintain their 1-game lead over Utah (who won last night) and 1-and-a half in front of Dallas for the 8th spot in the west. Another win tonight on the road will bode well for the Lakers in making sure they are the team holding that playoff ticket when the regular season ends for them on April 17.
Last night's loss to Philadelphia may have sparked something that could further drop the Bucks out of their playoff hunt.
Head coach Jim Boylan benched Brandon Jennings in the 4th quarter in order to push his team into playing better basketball. But why Jennings? That's probably because Jennings only had 3 assists and zero points before Boylan pulled him out of the game. Naturally, Jennings didn't quite like being made an example for the team, so who knows how that little scenario affect him or the Bucks play the Lakers tonight.
Nevertheless, the Lakers should be focused on beating the Bucks tonight and nothing else. They'll be tasked to defend, not only Jennings, but scoring-machine Monta Ellis without the injured Metta World Peace.
Ellis may not be a reliable 3-pt. threat, but he is quick, athletic and highly aggressive on offense. He's no Russell Westbrook, but Ellis can be a huge problem for the Lakers if they don't take him seriously on defense right away. In their loss against the Lakers in January, Ellis turned in 17 points, 4 assists and a steal. But this guy is capable of having a 20+ or even a 30+ night if he gets going, so the Lakers better be in tune with their team defense tonight or watch a possible scoring show hosted by Ellis.
Kobe Bryant held Jennings to just 12 points and 1 assist on a 4-of-14 shooting from the field the last time these teams met at Staples Center. Kobe's defense was so good that it even Jennings couldn't help but praise him and call it "the best defense somebody's ever played on me".
If the Lakers are to win tonight, Bryant's defense has to be as sound. But without Metta, Kobe can only focus in on either Jennings or Ellis. He may have to do both depending on which player gets hot at the start of the game or in the 4th quarter. Either way, the Lakers have to put on an absolute stiffling team defense to make either case a moot point.
This game is the final meeting of the season for both teams with the Lakers looking to sweep the series for the first time in 2 years. The Bucks have taken 2 of the last 3 meetings versus L.A. winning at home and on the road.
INJURY UPDATE — Metta World Peace: In a press release posted by the Lakers, Metta World Peace had a successful knee surgery that was performed by team doctors Steve Lombardo and Dan Kharrazi today in Los Angeles. Metta tore his meniscus during a game against the Warriors on Monday after slipping on a wet spot on the floor. He is expected to be out a minimum of 6 weeks.
Matchup of the Game
Steve Nash vs. Brandon Jennings: Thanks to Kobe's D on Jennings, Nash's 3-for-10 shooting for 8 points was masked in the last game. It's a good bet tonight that Nash will have to defend Jennings. However, Steve has been looking for his shots more the past 2 games and will likely continue to do that in this matchup. But again, his fatigue level, as well as the team in general, is going to be a concern for Mike D'Antoni.
Keys to the Game
> Dig Deep: For the Lakers to really start shedding away any pre-determined uh-ohs like not having the energy to win back-to-backs, they have to start ignoring the aches and pains that go along with their collective age and think of the bigger picture of what they'll eventually need to do in the playoffs. They have to realize that no team in the league feels sorry for any tired legs or hurting bones now and, especially, in any playoff series.
> Contain the Guards: The Bucks' success rely heavily on Jennings and Ellis. If the Lakers can slow down both, or at least one of them, their chances of winning this game goes way up. But that's only if they focus on doing just that from start to finish.
> Turnovers: The Lakers just can't seem to rectify this part of their game this season. Sure, part of that is not having enough time to get to know one another. But the way they've been turning the ball over is simply unacceptable. One of the factors for the Lakers' win over the Bucks at Staples Center, however, was they only had 8 turnovers for the game. They have to take care of the ball again if they want to get their 2nd win on this road trip.
Watch Out For
LAKERS: Dwight Howard: If Larry Sanders can't stop Dwight again tonight, the Bucks are in deep trouble. Howard had a monster game against this team last time getting 31 points, 16 boards and 4 blocks shooting 14-of-18 from the field. The arenas may have shifted but Milwaukee is facing a much healthier D12 than they did back in Los Angeles.
BUCKS: Monta Ellis: Ellis leads the team in minutes (37.9) on top of points (19.5) and steals (2) per game. That means that he has the green light to keep shooting the ball and attacking the rim. He knows that his legs are younger than the Lakers' best defender on him — which is Kobe — and is too quick for Earl Clark and Jodie Meeks to try to contain. We'll see what the Lakers do with him.
@ Milwaukee Bucks
Tip-off: 5:00 p.m. (PST)
BMO Harris Bradley Center
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW
LAKERS: Jordan Hill (hip) and Metta World Peace (knee) are out.