Friday, April 12, 2024

NBA Preview: Los Angeles Lakers (39-32) at Milwaukee Bucks (46-25)

Home is where the victories are for the Milwaukee Bucks, who will take a six-game winning streak inside their own building into a matchup Tuesday with the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.

Lakers star LeBron James has been downgraded from doubtful to out for Tuesday’s game due to a left ankle injury.

It will mark the 10th game that James has missed this season, including both contests against the Bucks.

The clash affords Milwaukee a chance to avenge a 123-122 defeat at Los Angeles earlier this month. The Bucks rallied for a six-point lead with just under two minutes remaining before falling under the weight of 44 points from the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell on March 8.

Since that loss, the Bucks (46-25) have won five of their past seven games, including a 118-93 victory at home over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. That visit to Los Angeles is also one of just four losses in the past 15 games for Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points for the Bucks on Sunday, but it was Khris Middleton who is showing just how healthy he is with his second career triple-double and first since January 2018.

Middleton scored 11 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists in his third game since spending more than five weeks away with a sprained left ankle. In his brief return, Middleton has averaged 18.3 points with 6.3 rebounds and 7.7 assists.

With Antetokounmpo missing two games last week with a sore hamstring, it was just the first game he played with Middleton since Feb. 6.

The Bucks are in second place in the Eastern Conference, with the Boston Celtics having already clinched the division title. Milwaukee headed into play Monday with a three-game lead on the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers and 11 games remaining in the regular season.

The Lakers also have 11 games remaining, but that schedule comes with the added challenge of beginning a six-game road trip Tuesday, with five of those contests against Eastern Conference teams.

Los Angeles closed out a four-game homestand with a three-game winning streak after scoring a season-high 150 points in a victory Sunday over the Indiana Pacers. The Lakers (39-32) will be trying to match a season-best four-game winning streak, accomplished in early December.

Los Angeles is in ninth place in the Western Conference and currently eligible for a spot in the play-in tournament, while sitting three games out of sixth place and an automatic playoff spot.

With the high-scoring victory over the Pacers complete, James already had his eyes on the road trip, even if only can play a supportive role from the bench to start..

While Russell was out for the Lakers on Sunday with an illness, new arrival Spencer Dinwiddie added scoring from the guard spot with 26 points. It was his highest scoring contest in 17 games since he signed with Los Angeles last month.

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