Last season the Lakers got off to a good start. Yet, doubters pointed to their somewhat favorable schedule and felt they weren’t as good as their record indicated. Then, the Lakers started play good team, great teams, and beat them. That’s how the 2019-20 season started and you know how it ended. In the 2020-21 season its deja-vu all over again. The Lakers are off to a record breaking 7-0 start on the road before tonight’s game against the Eastern powerhouse Milwaukee Bucks and had the best record overall in the Association. Yet, there was concern that they had only played three playoff caliber teams and were 1-2 in those games. So, the basketball gods sent the Lakers the Bucks, at home, and the Lakers did tonight what the Lakers team last season did. They won. Losing record, no problem. Winning record, OK. Playoff team or not, it doesn’t matter. These Lakers play to win and tonight, against a quality opponent on the road, they won again.
Star of the Game
I think it might be time to just come to grips with the fact that LeBron James is the MVP of the Association every season, honestly! I have heard it, and I am sure you have too, that James “should have been” the MVP in any number of seasons, but he wasn’t selected because… Well, the because is interesting. There are some who think you can’t give it to the same player all the time. There are others who might come to expect the greatness of LeBron and as such can’t see it for what it is. Whatever the reason, it’s time to snap out of it. LeBron James is absolutely the greatest player of his generation and arguably the best ever. He should retroactively be giving the MVP Award over the last 10 seasons, at least. At least one Defensive Player of the Year should be sprinkled in there as well. Ya, he’s that good. He was that good tonight as well with a season high 34 points 8 assists and 6 rebounds.
Giannis Antetokounmpo came out strong and seemed to want to take control of the game on both ends. In short, he wanted to make a statement to the World Champs but in doing so he didn’t let the game come to him. Instead, he barreled over the game, and several Lakers, like the proverbial bull in a china shop. The difference in maturity between the current MVP and the real MVP was staggering. James wanted to control the game just as much as Antetokounmpo, but he let the game come to him. He didn’t force anything; thats what MVP’s do. The Lakers won the game and James won the MVP battle.
It seems odd to list this as a concern when the Lakers won, but the Lakers did not play their best. They seemed out of sorts for most of the first half. The team played uninspired offense and seemed to be a step slow defensively. What is, or should be, down right scary to the rest of the Association is that despite a poor performance they were up at halftime 63-57. Let that soak in a little, the Lakers did not play well but were leading the Milwaukee Bucks at home. The second half saw the Lakers get big leads, then give them up. In the end, they won, but the uninspired basketball, even in spurts and certainly when they are up, is a concern.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made 7 of 10 shots from 3-point range. One shot was taken to end the half in a sequence that was truly bizarre for the Bucks. The Lakers inbounded the ball under the Bucks basket with 2.3 seconds. That’s plenty of time in the NBA, but it’s still only 2.3 seconds. Caldwell-Pope got the ball and dribbled to half court while being hounded by Bucks defenders who knew they basically just had to get in the way of him and basket. Well, no, that actually didn’t happen. For reasons only the Bucks players know, they let Caldwell-Pope dribble to half court, then to just above the 3-point line for a pretty wide open shot. He made it. That was a precursor of what was to come for the Lakers and for Caldwell-Pope.
Chicago Bulls, Saturday, January 23rd
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Jose has written for Bleacher Report, Clipperholics, OC Weekly and wrote a series of articles covering the 2010 NBA Finals for the LA Times. He lives in Southern California and is excited to watch thePeachBasket grow!