MILWAUKEE (AP) – LeBron James said last season’s NBA results didn’t provide extra motivation as his Los Angeles Lakers prepare to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.
He had more important things on his mind.
James scored 34 points in his seventh shutout of the season to help the Lakers to a 113-106 victory over the Bucks on Thursday. He finished second to Antetokounmpo in the MVP voting last year.
It was never about the individual (the honor), said James, a four-time MVP. It’s about the success of the team. That’s all that matters. …I just want to play well and help our team face any opponent. That’s the point.
Los Angeles (12-4) regained a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter in Monday night’s loss to Golden State. The Bucks (9-6) lost their second game in a row.
The game pits the reigning NBA champions, the Lakers, against a Bucks team that has had the best regular season in the league the past two years.
It was the first time the Lakers faced the Bucks since the 2019-20 vote. Additionally, Antetokounmpo narrowly edged out Los Angeles’ Anthony Davis in the voting for defensive player of the year.
That was evident last season, said Davis, who had 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists. No one mentioned or talked about it. Our motivation was to not lose twice in a row today. We did it.
The Lakers shot 19 of 37 times from 3-point range, James shot 6 of 10 times and Kentavian Caldwell-Pope shot 7 of 10 times. Caldwell-Pope scored 23 points.
Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 12 rebounds for Milwaukee, but he also had nine turnovers. Jrue Holiday scored 22 points for the Bucks and Chris Middleton finished with 20 points.
We have to keep working, play basketball for a long time, make shots, defend better, bounce the ball better, Antetokounmpo said. Finally, we need to improve.
After a first half marked by seven ties and nine lead changes, the Lakers won 63-57. The Lakers beat Milwaukee 20-8 in the final minutes 5½ of the second quarter, including a 35-foot Caldwell-Pope buzzer beater.
There were times when we were really good on both ends of the court, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. We had a bad run, I felt like the last four or five minutes of the second quarter, on both ends of the field, we were bad. We were not as sharp as we should have been for 48 minutes.
Los Angeles stayed ahead in the second half.
Leading 98-87 with less than 7½ minutes to go, the Bucks reduced the deficit to 102-100 when Middleton advanced to the baseline and scored at 3:05 from the end. Caldwell-Pope responded with a 3-point angle with 2:42 left.
The Lakers didn’t drop below four points for the rest of the game.
Lakers: For Lakers defenseman Wesley Matthews, who played for the Bucks last season, this game marked a return to Milwaukee. Matthews’ ties to Wisconsin continue; he attended high school in Madison and played varsity basketball in Marquette. Matthews scored six points.
Dollars: This should be the first of two consecutive games for the Bucks. That changed when the NBA postponed Friday’s home game against Washington to an undisclosed date. According to NBA officials, the game was postponed because the Wizards were missing a number of players trying to make contact with other players on their roster and because the team was unable to practice in the pre-game period.
Lakers come to Chicago on Saturday. The Lakers defeated the Bulls by a score of eight. January at home by 117-115.
The Bucks host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday before hitting the road for a three-game home stand.
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