The Los Angeles Lakers came into this season as the reigning NBA champions and heavy favorites to repeat. After a modest 2-2 start to begin the season, the Lakers came into their Thursday night slate against the Milwaukee Bucks ready to establish themselves as title favorites once again. The Bucks represented the biggest challenge besides the Staple Center rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers. Topping the reigning MVP and preseason Eastern Conference favorites could show the rest of the league that they won’t be the victims of any championship hangover.
Lakers Win Over Bucks Highlights Their Incredible Ceiling in the Playoffs
On Thursday night the Lakers topped the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 in a matchup that many would have predicted as a common finals matchup. The game marked Los Angeles’ 10th win in their last 12 games. The victory also places them in sole possession of first place in the NBA.
After the game, Los Angeles holds the fourth-best 3-point percentage in the league, best defensive rating, and fifth-best offensive rating according to Basketball-Reference.
The Lakers are off to a scary start, at 12-4 they are a half-game up on the Clippers and Utah Jazz for the best record in the league and show no signs of slowing down. Thus far they have beaten two of the top four teams in the West, the Clippers and the Phoenix Suns, twice and competed with every other opponent even in their losses. All of their defeats have come by fewer than 10 points and none have been to an opponent with a losing record. Another amazing feat is that this team is 8-0 on the road this season.
What was so incredible about Los Angeles’ performance in this game and their play through this season as a whole is that they don’t seem like they’re all there yet. There have been many moments of laxness defensively and more rarely offensively and they haven’t even really needed to rely on their stars too heavily yet. LeBron James, the premier player in the league for the last decade can take possessions off, not having to worry about having the ball in his hands. The 36-year-old from Akron is playing in the fewest minutes of his career while still putting up gaudy numbers. The former MVP is averaging 24/8/8 and shooting nearly 40 percent from deep so far this season.
While they have relied on their bench at times, James made sure to steal the show Thursday. Against the Bucks, he hit turn around jumper after turn around jumper over every opponent thrown at him. James let it rain from deep connecting on six of his ten shots from beyond the arc. He capped off his season-high 34 point night with a dagger three to seal the victory. He also put his savvy playmaking on display, dishing eight assists and constantly directing traffic off-ball. While unstoppable at times as he reminded viewers against the Bucks, the King needs not worry about overexerting himself as he has the best supporting cast in the league.
All The King’s Men
Anthony Davis is as unthwartable as ever on both sides of the ball so far, further validating his trade.
Even without Davis and James, this team is rich with talent.
This lakers team is deeper and more dangerous than their championship team of last season. Three huge additions have helped shape the team. Marc Gasol adds even more range and sageness to the roster. Dennis Schroder is a criminally underrated guard in this league and Montrezl Harrell is a ferocious wrecking ball.
It seems as though everyone on the team is playing some of their best ball this season. This is especially true when it comes to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope, once the subject of trade rumors, is the team’s sharpest shooter converting 57 percent of the time from deep. Harrell is putting up career highs in rebounds in free throw percentage while bringing his famous intensity.
While watching them play they can tear any defense apart in a plethora of ways. Anyone of their players can dominate in isolation or put together a sweet melody of offensive play. The Bucks may be the only team long enough and skilled enough to stop their offense but even they struggled. The Lakers exposed mismatches and found open guys from all positions in the half-court. Davis, Harrell, and Gasol fed cutters or open shooters from the post. James and Schroder darted in and out wreaking havoc with the ball in their hands.
A month in and it’s hard to say that any team could top the lakers in a seven-game series. When James kicks it into that next gear the rest of the league better watch out. Opponents should hope for an untimely injury because that seems like the only thing that could slow down this squad.
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