Los Angeles - Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 32 points as the Milwaukee Bucks
defeated LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 111-104 to claim the
best record in the NBA on Thursday.
In a pulsating duel between the leaders of the Eastern and Western
Conferences, it was Milwaukee who claimed early bragging rights in a
potential match-up of NBA Finals contenders.
Antetokounmpo added 11 rebounds and seven assists to an impressive
night's work, while George Hill had 21 off the bench. Khris Middleton
had 15 points with Wesley Matthews adding 13 and Brook Lopez 10.
The victory left Milwaukee five games clear at the top of the Eastern Conference with 25 wins against four defeats.
James meanwhile completed a triple double of 21 points, 12 rebounds
and 11 assists while Anthony Davis led the Lakers scoring with 36 points
and 10 rebounds at Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum.
The Lakers were always chasing the game after a devastating burst of
scoring from the Bucks in the second quarter, when they pulled clear of
the visitors to gain a decisive advantage.
The Lakers, aiming to avoid a second straight defeat on the road, had
stayed in touch early on, trailing only by 23-17 at the end of the
first quarter. The 17-point total was the lowest Lakers first quarter
score of the season.
The Bucks soon went 12 points clear at 29-17 in the second quarter,
and with 5:30 left in the half, had moved into a 21-point advantage at
By half-time the Bucks were 65-45 ahead, firmly in control after a 42-point second quarter.
The Lakers rallied hard after the restart, finding greater shooting
accuracy from the floor to cut the Milwaukee lead to 89-81 at the start
of the fourth quarter.
Milwaukee however always managed to find a three-pointer when it
mattered, Matthews delivering a hammer blow in the final minutes with a
three-pointer that put Milwaukee 106-94 ahead after James had missed a
three-point attempt that could have put the Lakers within six points.
That 12-point deficit proved too great for the Lakers, who remain on
top of the Western Conference despite the defeat, with a record of 24-5.