LeBron and the Lakers: Round 2

The tired NBA cliché ‘just one of 82 games’ definitely doesn’t apply here.

The Los Angeles Lakers (47-13) have the best record in the Western Conference and hold a five-game lead over the second place LA Clippers. Milwaukee is in a similar situation. The Bucks (53-9) lead the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference by nine games with 20 to play.

Friday night will be the second bout between these two heavyweights this season. In round one, the Bucks won 111-104, in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score reflected.

Anthony Davis scored 36 for the Lakers. That was combatted by Giannis Antetokounmpo hitting five three-point shots en route to a 34 point performance.

That game was on December 19.

Since then, the two teams have lost just a combined 13 games.

A potential NBA Finals preview, this round could be much different than that first time around.

Here are five reasons why:

In Milwaukee, the Lakers were finishing up a stretch of playing five road games in eight days. They went from Orlando, to Miami, to Atlanta, Indiana and then finally Milwaukee. Over that week, LeBron James logged 147 minutes in four games. Then played 37 against the Bucks. Tonight, the Lakers will be well-rested, having not played a game since Tuesday, nor having travelled since Sunday night.

George Hill was red hot against the Lakers in December. Off-the-bench, Milwaukee’s back-up point guard scored 21 points and was 3-of-5 from the three-point line. He’s currently listed as questionable with a groin contusion. Hill sat out Milwaukee’s Wednesday night game against the Pacers.

Kyle Kuzma has been a lighting rod for attention, and rumors, with the Lakers this season. Regardless, he is shooting over 43 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three, and is averaging 12 points and four rebounds per game. He wasn’t available the last time these two teams played, he sat out with an ankle injury. Kuzma’s offensive spark could pay dividends for Los Angeles seeing as how their bench only totaled four points last time around.

Ersan Ilyasova hasn’t been much of a factor for the Bucks as of late. Against the Lakers he managed just two points in 17 minutes. Overall the team was -10 when he was on the floor. Ilyasova’s usage has changed thanks to the addition of Marvin Williams, who the team signed after he was bought out by Charlotte. Williams has been an upgrade on both ends of the floor and can provide some much needed rest for Antetokounmpo.

The Lakers made a buyout splash of their own. Markieff Morris is now a contributor for them. The majority of their offense will obviously come from James and Anthony Davis, however, now Morris is another body capable of defending Antetokounmpo. It’s never an easy task to defend the reigning MVP, but ensures that he’ll never be able to take a play off.

“Obviously they’re going to try to get pay back,” guard Eric Bledsoe said about the pending matchup in LA. “We beat them pretty bad. They’re going to come out strong and we just have to match that intensity.

“They’re at the top for a reason. They have two of the best players in the league and a great supporting cast. So we have to match that intensity.”