Feb 22, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) drives for the basket against Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson (6) in the second quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
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The Milwaukee Bucks don’t have much time to figure out how to move past Jabari Parker’s injury, thanks to a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
It was pretty easy for Bucks fans to look on the bright side of things this year, even when the team was struggling. After all, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari around for the long haul, how bad could it really be in Milwaukee?
This injury changes the answer to that question massively. There are lots of long-term impacts to discuss here. Adam McGee did a great job of tackling some of them already, but this piece is more about the very short term–namely, the Bucks game tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers.
With Khris Middleton slowly coming back to Milwaukee’s rotation and Jabari suddenly leaving it, there are lots of questions head coach Jason Kidd will have to answer by Friday night, the most obvious being who will start next to Giannis against the Lakers?
We’ll get there soon when major keys for both the Bucks and Lakers are broken down. After that the most dangerous Laker (in terms of how an effective player is dangerous, not a Metta World Peace kind of danger) will be identified, followed by score predictions for the game.
Nov 5, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Mirza Teletovic (35) reacts after scoring a 3-point basket in the second quarter during the game against the Sacramento Kings at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Teletovic scored 22 points to help the Bucks beat the Kings 117-91. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Major Key For Milwaukee: Space The Floor
The Bucks have a few options to fill the vacant starting forward spot. Once Khris Middleton does return to form, the Bucks could slide him in between Tony Snell and Giannis Antetokounmpo to make a smaller, stretchier lineup.
It’s doubtful Kidd will go to that option right away though, so the more likely scenario is one of three bench forwards getting the nod. Mirza Teletovic, Michael Beasley and Thon Maker all could slide in at the four, even if Thon is more of a five at times.
Thon would unquestionably be the most fun of those options, and the Bucks have shown they’re willing to play and even start the young Maker. His being viewed as more of a center could impact Kidd’s decision, although it’s always hard to tell exactly what’s happening with the Bucks rotation.
Teletovic is a good option too. Although his three-point percentage is down from last season, he’s still got enough touch to where you’d think some extended playing time could result in an uptick in efficiency. The real problem with Teletovic is the lack of passing he brings with him–Teletovic tends to always fire away, which can stop possessions before a good shot is found.
Finally, the Beas could be released into the starting lineup. Beasley has been surprisingly good this season, and although he rarely shoots from deep he’s sporting a great three-point percentage. Unfortunately the Bucks hemorrhage points defensively when Beasley is on the floor, whereas somehow the team has a positive net rating in Mirza minutes.
Beasley can score off the dribble without much help, something the second unit will need now that the Bucks won’t have the option of staggering Giannis and Jabari so one of them is almost always out there.
Logically, it would seem that Teletovic is the safest choice, although Thon Maker might be more fun of an option. It will be interesting to see how Kidd handles the forward situation, both against L.A. and going forward for the rest of the season.
Feb 22, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Steve Novak (6) guards Los Angeles Lakers forward Nick Young (0) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks beat the Lakers 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Major Key For Los Angeles: Score Some Points
The Lakers are bad again this season. After a hot start leading some to jump the gun and anoint the Luke Walton Lakers a playoff team, L.A. quickly cratered back into the lottery abyss. The good news: at least they’ll have a good shot at keeping that mythical Lakers pick!
The bad news is that the team stinks. The Lakers have a minuscule chance of winning unless they either play great defense or great offense–anything less typically results in a loss.
When Los Angeles allows the opposition to score 100 or less points, the Lakers are 9-2. If the other teams scores more than 100 points, Los Angeles is 9-35. Asking a group of young players (plus Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng and Nick Young) to hold teams to 100 points or less is asking a lot.
Conversely, when the Lakers score a ton they have a good shot at winning too. Los Angeles is 10-1 when the team manages to score 116 or more points, compared to just 8-36 when the team falls short of that mark. Los Angeles has just two wins all season (in 36 chances) when the team scores less than 116 and allows more than 100 points in the same game.
There are their guidelines. The Lakers need to either score a ton, or play great defense to win. Conversely that means Milwaukee should be able to get a win by winning one side of the game, even if they’re only average on the other end.
Mar 18, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Lou Williams (23) reacts after a foul was called on the Lakers during the second half against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center. The Phoenix Suns won 95-90. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Lou Williams is a Toronto Raptors legend ever since Drake immortalized him in song, but Williams is having just as much success in Los Angeles as he had in Toronto. The only difference, really, is that the team around him is not good.
Lou Will is averaging more points, rebounds, assists and blocks per game than he managed in his Sixth Man of the Year season back in 2014-15, and he’s doing it in less minutes per game. Williams is averaging 18.3 points per game–a career high–to go along with 2.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
Sweet Lou has anchored Los Angeles’ bench unit, and he’s actually leading the Baby Lakers in scoring right now. Williams’ efficiency is also just about as good as it’s ever been–he’s making 43.8 percent of his field goals and 37.8 percent of his threes this season, the latter number representing another career high.
A lot of jokes went around about the Lakers signing Lou Will, thanks to his reputation as more of a chucker than an efficient scorer. He deserves credit for working on his shot, and on finding better shots to take. This version of Lou Will is probably one of the better bench scorers in the NBA, if not the best.
Feb 22, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) and Los Angeles Lakers guard Louis Williams (23) battle for a loose ball in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. The Bucks beat the Lakers 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Things are rough in Milwaukee right now. A win against the Lakers on Friday isn’t solving any long-term problems, but it could set the tone for the rest of the season. Last time Jabari Parker got hurt, the Bucks rebounded and made the playoffs.
It would’ve obviously been better if Jabari didn’t get hurt, but the only thing to do now is hope for the best. The best case scenario is that the Bucks band together, and tear up the rest of the NBA over the next few months for their injured teammate.
The first chance for Milwaukee to come out and prove their season isn’t over is Friday night. These Lakers aren’t great, but they’re not tanking. These young guys want to win. The Bucks are the better team, but this is no cakewalk.