Preview: Bucks at Lakers

March 31, 2018

Only seven games remain for the Milwaukee Bucks, but there is still plenty of time to improve their playoff positioning.

Milwaukee can move into a tie for seventh in the Eastern Conference with a win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at Staples Center.

The Bucks (40-35) defeated the short-handed Golden State Warriors 116-107 on Thursday night to remain a half-game back of the Miami Heat (41-35), who won earlier Thursday against the visiting Chicago Bulls and hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.

Milwaukee, which last won a playoff series since the 2000-01 season, can also pull within a half-game within the sixth-place Washington Wizards (41-34).

Milwaukee shot 55.2 percent and Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points in Thursday's win.

The Warriors were without their All Star starting backcourt of Stephen Curry (ankle) and Klay Thompson (thumb) and defending NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant was ejected in the second quarter in his first game back after missing six games with a fractured rib.

Although his team beat a short-handed opponent, Bucks coach Joe Prunty was pleased with Milwaukee's performance coming off a 105-98 loss Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

"A win on the road anytime in the NBA is huge," Prunty told reporters before taking the flight back south to L.A. "The guys that step out on the floor, you know they're going to be disciplined for what they're supposed to do. You know that they're going to continue to execute, you know they're going to continue to try and defend. We had to play very well (Thursday) night and I thought we did a good job of that. We played very well for long stretches of time."

The Lakers (33-41) have also had key players come and go of late because of injuries and have dropped five of their last seven games.

Los Angeles co-leading scorer Brandon Ingram (16.2) returned from a 12-game absence because of a groin injury and played 23 minutes Wednesday night in a 103-93 win against the visiting Dallas Mavericks, but the Lakers watched rookie point guard Lonzo Ball hobble off with a left knee contusion late in the third quarter.

Ball, who missed 15 consecutive games from mid-January until late-February with a sprained MCL in the same knee, is listed as questionable against the Bucks.

Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters after practice Thursday that he was optimistic with Ball's recovery.

"He was in the training room getting treatment this morning, so he feels better," Walton said.

Ball became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double when he had 17 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds in a 98-90 loss in Milwaukee on Nov. 11.

Los Angeles rookie guard Josh Hart is also listed as questionable after missing the past 14 games following hand surgery. Hart went through a full practice Thursday and appears to have a much better chance of taking the floor against Milwaukee than Ball.

Los Angeles announced Thursday that guard Isaiah Thomas would miss the remainder of the season. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his hip Thursday after missing the past three games with soreness. His recovery time is expected to be about four months.

Julius Randle is the only player Laker to appear in all 74 games this season, and the power forward seems to be getting stronger. He has recorded at least 20 points and nine rebounds in nine straight games, joining Shaquille O'Neal and Pau Gasol as the only players in franchise history to also have such a streak.

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