The brilliance of the past. The anticipation of the future. Which is more powerful in the present?
NBA fans are in for a treat with Bucks vs Lakers on ESPN Friday night basketball, in what could end up as an NBA Finals preview.
Bucks vs Lakers odds
|Date||Friday, March 6|
|Time||10:40 p.m. ET|
|How to watch Bucks vs Lakers||ESPN|
|Bucks vs Lakers odds – point spread||Lakers -1.5|
|Bucks vs Lakers odds – total points||228.5 over/under|
A preview of June’s Finals? Kawhi Leonard’s former team, the Toronto Raptors, and current employer, the Los Angeles Clippers, might have a say in that.
But for now, let’s just call it: LeBron-Giannis III, for entertainment purposes only.
“There will be a time,” James assured reporters Tuesday night after his club’s 120-107 win over Philadelphia in what had been billed a statement game for the Lakers.
“Right now, we’re playing for a growth mindset,” he claimed. “How we can continue to get better throughout the regular season. How we can get better every week as the season continues to wind down. How we can get better as the playoffs start.”
Ah, the playoffs. If they began today, the Lakers (47-13) would be the top seed in the Western Conference. The Bucks (53-9) would be the team to beat in the East.
With just 22 and 20 games remaining, respectively, it’s unlikely the top spots will change.
Which makes Friday’s rematch — one pitting a Lakers team that’s won nine of 10 against a Bucks club that’s taken seven of eight — more of a love-fest than a heavyweight fight.
Reporters approached Antetokounmpo after Wednesday’s 119-100 win over Indiana, looking for words to fuel a fire leading into the nationally televised affair with the Lakers.
Instead, they got …
“It's amazing … 35 (years old) and playing at a high level,” the 25-year-old remarked about James. “He just leads the path for us. A lot of times we think that, 'Ok, we're going to retire at 35,' but seeing a guy at 35, being still top-three best player in the world, that makes us want to be there.
“It makes me want to be there one day. I keep taking care of my body, eating the right way, being healthy. He paved the way. Hopefully we can follow.”
DraftKings posted moneylines of -113 for Milwaukee and -105 for the Lakers. The over-under is 227. More on this on Bettingexpert.com
The superstars have gone head-to-head twice this season. Each had a signature moment … in defeat.
James recorded a triple-double with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists when the Lakers visited Milwaukee in December. Antetokounmpo countered with 34 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
The difference in the game: The supporting casts.
While James got 36 points and 10 rebounds of help from sidekick Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles bench produced a total of just four points.
Meanwhile, George Hill let a Bucks reserve crew that put up 34 points in a difference-making performance.
Afterward, Lakers coach Frank Vogel vowed his team would get better.
“We want to be pushed, we want to be challenged,” he assured reporters. “That’s the best way to sharpen what we’re doing and really come together.”
The supporting casts changed when James and Antetokounmpo met again as All-Star Game captains last month.
This time, it was the youngster who had the attention-grabbing moment — a dramatic block on James at the rim with the game on the line. It was so incredible, it was initially ruled impossible — goaltending — before overturned on review.
However, in the end, James won the personal rematch when a Davis free throw provided the difference in an entertaining exhibition win.
And now it’s on to Round 3, with the Lakers facing some of the same issues that led to them coming up short in Milwaukee.
While the Bucks have added to their depth with the addition of Marvin Williams, the Lakers watched as the rival Clippers won the battle for the Morrises — the Clippers wrestling high-scoring Marcus from the New York Knicks, before the Lakers had to settle for Detroit Pistons buy-out Markieff.
And while the Bucks, who outscored the Lakers 48-36 on 3-pointers in the first meeting, have become a consistently productive team from beyond the arc (37.5 percent in February), the Lakers have become more and more dependent on the inside games of James and Davis as their perimeter attack has continued to be substandard (35.4 percent in February).
No doubt, the Lakers recognize the problem. They brought in Dion Waiters off the street and kicked the tires on J.R. Smith.
While Friday’s meeting has become a focal point of the schedule, it’s only part of a rugged stretch each is currently enduring.
The Bucks, who have played Miami and Indiana in their last two games, have the unenviable task of visiting Denver in the finale of a four-day, three-game trip on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Lakers, having just dealt with Philadelphia on Tuesday, get no rest in the immediate wake of the Milwaukee showdown, drawing the Clippers on Sunday.