Here is what you need to know before the Lakers’ matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.
1) Randle continues to thrive in role
At the beginning of the season, there was plenty of speculation regarding whether Julius Randle would embrace his task of coming off the bench. So far, the fourth-year pro has surpassed expectations.
Randle has been a two-way revelation for the Lakers off the pine. Through 12 games, he has gotten whatever he wants in the paint against backup big men, and shown great defensive quickness and footwork when switched onto opposing guards.
Though the Lakers lost their first two games of the current road trip, Randle has put in some good work, with 16 points and 12 rebounds against Boston and 11/9 versus Washington.
Given the opportunity, Randle is a walking (actually, sprinting) bucket, as his 60.7 field goal percentage ranks sixth in the NBA.
With his new role, Randle’s shooting struggles (just 7-of-29 on jumpers) have less of an impact on his all-around game.
Defenses can’t force him to shoot because they can’t keep him away from the hoop, as his combination of size, speed and a devastating spin move have him shooting a blistering 47-of-59 in the restricted area (79.7 percent).
2) Rookies are going through some growing pains
The Lakers are looking to get some more accuracy from their rookie class, which has played well as a whole this season.
In particularly, Los Angeles is in need of shooting, as the young guys have struggled to splash recently.
The most obvious example is Lonzo Ball, whose 29.2 field goal percentage has been the topic of national conversation.
While Ball’s jumper has clearly been off, head coach Luke Walton has been pleased with the second-overall pick’s play, saying that he makes his teammates better with his pace of play, passing, rebounding and defense.
Meanwhile, Kyle Kuzma has been a model of efficiency, using his advanced footwork and fast driving to rank among the NBA’s top 10 in two-point percentage (62.4). However, even Kuzma is looking to snap out of a funk, having shot 8-of-24 with eight turnovers and eight fouls in the first two games of the trip.
And Josh Hart has played rotation-worthy defense every time that he has checked in this year. However, the First Team All-American has missed all of his last 12 attempts. But Hart was so accurate to begin the season (hitting nine of his first 14 shots) that it seems like a simple slump for the 3 and D prospect.
3) Giannis has ascended past the level of “freak”
Just 22 years old, Giannis Antetokounmpo is already an MVP candidate and leading the NBA in scoring with 31.5 points per game.
Perhaps most impressively, the reigning Most Improved Player is putting up his massive average despite the absence of a reliable jumper. His absurd length allows him to stride to the hoop at fast-break speed, even in half-court play, which has led to a league-best 20.9 points in the paint.
”The Greek Freak” has also been efficient, ranking ninth in field goal percentage (59.1) and 10th in made free throws (6.0).
On the other end, he somehow still has the energy for All-Defensive-caliber play, most notably swatting four shots in each of his last three games.
Antetokounmpo has also found an early connection with the newest Buck, Eric Bledsoe, who debuted in last night’s win over San Antonio. A good slasher in his own right, Bledsoe should be a boost to a Milwaukee offense that has relied heavily on Giannis.
Lakers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (left hip strain) is probable. Andrew Bogut (back tightness) is questionable. Larry Nance Jr. (fractured second metacarpal, left hand) is out.
Bucks: Mirza Teletovic (left knee soreness) is doubtful. Jabari Parker (post-surgery, left knee) is out.
Tip-Off: 5:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Location: BMO Harris Bradley Center — Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Click here to view game notes for this contest.