Bucks send Lakers to sixth straight loss
LOS ANGELES — Brandon Knight scored 18 of his career-high 37 points in the third quarter and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 94-79 Tuesday night.
The Lakers ended the year the same way they began it — with six straight losses. They had never ended a calendar year with more than three consecutive defeats in any of the franchise’s 65 previous seasons. Los Angeles will begin the new year 13-19 — the team’s first losing record since the 2002-03 season, when they also started out 13-19 following their third straight NBA title.
The year was a distinctly sobering one for the Lakers, who mourned the passing of flamboyant owner Jerry Buss, longtime executive Bill Sharman and Vern Mikkelsen, who helped the team win four NBA titles in Minneapolis. They also got swept in the first round of the playoffs and had star-crossed Kobe Bryant in the lineup for only six games so far this season.
Adding insult to Bryant’s injuries was the end of a 320-game home sellout streak last month.
Pau Gasol and Nick Young each scored 25 points for the Lakers, who shot 35.8 percent from the field. Young, who led the team in scoring in each of the previous six games as a reserve, made his seventh start of the season.
Trailing by 20 with 9:43 remaining, the Lakers closed to 86-79 with a 26-4 run capped by Kendall Marshall’s 3-pointer with 3:21 to play. But the determined Bucks were able to close it out for their second victory in 10 games.
The Lakers were coming off a pair of narrow losses to the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers, who entered Tuesday a combined 19-45 and last in their respective divisions when they faced them.
Mike D’Antoni’s undermanned squad was even worse against a Milwaukee lineup that came in a league-worst 6-24. But the Bucks beat them for the fourth time in five meetings, after winning only five of the previous 30.
Wearing all-black uniforms with gold trim for the second time this season and first time at home, the Lakers missed their first 11 shots while the Bucks opened the game with a 14-0 run.
Los Angeles didn’t get its first field goal until Gasol hit a 14-footer from the lane with 5:08 left in the first quarter, but Milwaukee extended its margin to 21-4 on Ersan Ilyasova’s 19 footer about 2 minutes later. By then, even the most staunch Laker fans in the sellout crowd must have been contemplating an early start to their New Year’s Eve parties.
Reserve guard Xavier Henry was sidelined for the first time this season because of a bone bruise and cartilage abnormality in his right knee, and forward Wesley Johnson didn’t play because of gastroenteritis. Chris Kaman also sat out because of a troublesome left ankle sprain. As a result, D’Antoni to use his eighth different starting lineup in as many games and 17th overall in 32 contests.
Bucks counterpart Larry Drew used his 18th different starting lineup, as Luke Ridnour made his fourth start of the season and scored 11 points in 36 minutes. Frontcourt swingman John Henson missed his second straight game because of a high left ankle sprain that occurred on Dec. 20, and is expected to be sidelined for at least two more contests.
Knight’s 15 points helped Milwaukee take a 42-33 halftime lead, while the Bucks held Los Angeles to a measly 28.3 percent shooting before intermission.
NOTES: The Bucks, who entered the NBA in 1968-69, are 2-6 on New Year’s Eve. The only other victory came on the final day of 1969, when they beat the San Diego Rockets 143-126 in regulation with 35 points from future Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. … The Lakers are 8-4 on New Year’s Eve and 4-2 since moving from Minneapolis to Los Angeles.