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Giannis Antetokounmpo rains threes, Bucks overwhelm Lakers for statement win

Los Angeles Lakers v Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 19: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket during the first half of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Fiserv Forum on December 19, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

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Midway through the fourth, the Lakers were trying to climb back in it. They were down 11 with the ball and ran their best play: a LeBron James/Anthony Davis pick-and-roll. It worked beautifully; both defenders slid with LeBron, Davis popped out to the top of the arc and was wide open, got the pass, set his feet… and the shot clanked off the back of the rim. Davis was 0-of-6 from three for the night.

Milwaukee got the rebound, Giannis Antetokounmpo brought the ball up, then drained a pull-up three over Davis.

The lead was back up to 14.

It went like that all night.

The Bucks held the Lakers to 17 first quarter points, led by as many as 21, and held off Los Angeles late for a 111-104 win, where the final score made it look closer than the game actually was.

The Bucks have now beaten the Lakers and Clippers this season, leaving no doubt they are the best team in the NBA at this point in the season and legitimate contenders for the crown.

The Lakers still have work to do.

Thursday night’s win was about team. The Lakers got huge nights from their stars — LeBron had a 21-12-11 triple-double, while Anthony Davis carried the team for stretches and finished with 36 points — but Los Angeles got just four bench points. The length and activity of the Bucks defense — things opposing coaches often talk about with the Lakers — threw off the Laker offense much of the night.

What the Bucks do on offense isn’t complex, but they execute it brilliantly. It starts with Antetokounmpo being a force of nature, He scored 34 points and shot 5-of-8 from three, plus had 11 rebounds.

What separated them from the Lakers is how in tune the rest of the Bucks offense was with their stars. Players understand the angles, space the floor, and when teams start to close out aggressively at the arc they make smart cuts to the rim. Everything worked for the Bucks, George Hill had 21, Khris Middleton 15, and Wesley Matthews had 13 plus a couple of clutch steals.

The rough night for Los Angeles started early, as they shot 6-of-21 in the first quarter. LeBron and Davis started the game 3-of-15 from the floor. Some of that can be chalked up to it being the final game of a road trip, but coach Frank Vogel had called this a measuring stick game. The Lakers got the significance.

Right now, it’s Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee’s league. Everyone else is trying to catch up.

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