LOS ANGELES—December 21, 2010: With their highly publicized, Christmas Day showdown against the Miami Heat fast approaching, the Los Angeles Lakers would fall to the Milwaukee Bucks 98-79 in a tune-up game.
“I told them they couldn’t play any worse than that,” said Lakers head coach Phil Jackson. “This is what we were worried about.”
The Lakers’ energy levels appeared to be teetering on empty, particularly in the fourth quarter—something that was probably expected after spending 11 days away from Los Angeles with a six-game road trip.
“I don’t think it’s endemic in our team,” Jackson said of the team’s lethargic play. “I think it’s pretty natural for teams to have that happen to them. I think everybody knows it, and you have to prepare against it. But it’s still not an excuse to have a team outwork you as much as Milwaukee did tonight.”
In spite of their league-low 91 points per game and 41 percent shooting, the Bucks gave a spirited offensive effort, even with star guard Brandon Jennings out of the lineup with a fractured foot. The Bucks shot 54 percent from the field in the first half and 50.7 percent for the game. Led by a 13-point effort from Ersan Ilyasova, the Bucks nursed a scant 50-46 lead at halftime.
After trading baskets for most of the third quarter, the Bucks finished it with a 9-3 run to put them up 72-66. Milwaukee continued their hot shooting in the fourth, as reserve guard Earl Boykins netted a three-pointer at the 6:48 mark, which put the Bucks up 80-72. The Bucks would swell their lead to 13 with 4:26 remaining and from then on, it would be a game of catch-up for the Lakers—a game they would eventually lose.
“We got a little out of whack there in the second half and we never recovered,” said Coach Jackson. “We stopped moving the ball, started playing individual basketball, and then the stand-around stuff started happening. Their defense was good, that made us do that too.”
“I was just worried about the run they were going to make,” said Boykins, who scored a game-high 22 points off the bench. “Usually they always make a run in the fourth quarter and you just try to hold them off as long as possible. We were able to get defensive stops and that was big.”
The Lakers’ unraveling in the fourth quarter would lead to a 21-point Bucks lead. Furthermore, the Lakers’ frustration was augmented by Kobe Bryant’s ejection at the 2:07 mark after he received two technical fouls for protesting a charge call. Bryant finished the game with 21 points on 9-of-16 from the field.
John Salmons added 20 points and Ersan Ilyasova had 17 points with 11 rebounds for the Bucks.
The Lakers frontcourt combination of Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom had double-doubles—Gasol with 15 points, 11 rebounds and Odom with 12 points, 10 rebounds.
On Saturday, Christmas Day, the Lakers will head into their much-anticipated matchup with the Miami Heat.
“It’s going to be a great pound for pound game,” said Lakers forward Ron Artest.
Game time is set to begin at 2:00 p.m. PT.