Giannis Antetokounmpo comes up big to carry Milwaukee Bucks past Los Angeles Lakers

By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange   |   Feb. 23, 2016 at 1:07 AM
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MILWAUKEE -- On the eve of the final visit to Milwaukee of his career, Kobe Bryant sung the praises of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, saying he had a great future ahead of him.

So with the two facing off for the last time Monday night, the young Greek put on a show for the outgoing legend, recording his first career triple-double with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Bucks to a 108-101 victory over the Lakers in front of a sellout crowd at the Bradley Center.

"Giannis is playing at a very high level right now," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "After the break, we made some changes and kind of gave him the ball as the point guard even though we haven't announced he is the point guard.

"We are letting him start the offense and on misses trying to get him the ball as fast as possible and have everybody else run."

The plan worked to a tee Monday.

Antetokounmpo hit five of his first seven shots for 12 first-quarter points, setting the tone for a Bucks offense that shot 53.5 percent in the first half with just three turnovers.

Bryant, meanwhile, missed four of his first five including a pair of 3-point attempts as the Lakers, playing the second half of a back-to-back, came out cold and shot just 37.5 percent with seven first-half turnovers.

Down 13 early in the second, they managed to cut the deficit to three with five minutes left in the quarter and were only down six at the break, but went 3-for-15 from the field in the third and turned it over seven times, helping fuel the Bucks who got 10 more from Antetokounmpo and went up by as many as 26.

"Tonight they did what they normally do," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "They lead the league in points in the paint. They had 58 tonight. Most of that was in transition. If we could have just taken away that part of the game, then we would have gave ourselves an opportunity. But we didn't. And that is how the game goes."

Forward Nick Young scored 16 of his 19 in the second half to lead the Lakers while Bryant finished with 15 points in his final Milwaukee appearance, playing 24 minutes.

"There are certain cities that have a collegiate atmosphere and this has always been one of them," said Bryant.

The 20-year veteran had some parting advice for Antetokounmpo, who is a rising star and a centerpiece of Milwaukee's rebuilding effort in just his third NBA season.

"I talked to him for quite a bit," Bryant said. "The biggest thing for him is deciding what he wants to be; does he want to be a great player or not. That's a choice he has to make but he has the potential to do it. He has the physical tools, the intelligence ... he has the talent to be a great player."

Antetokounmpo was appreciative of the attention.

"He's one of my role models and I always watched him when I was younger, he said. "It feels great (for Kobe) to acknowledge the things I did today.

"It feels great that Kobe is talking about me. It was his night."

The loss was Los Angeles' fourth in a row and 16th in the last 18 games, dropping the Lakers to 11-47 -- the worst mark in the Western Conference and 1.5 games "behind" the 76ers for the worst record in the league.

Milwaukee, meanwhile, is on a bit of a roll; the Bucks have won four of their last five games to move up to 12th in the East, but remain 4.5 games behind the Bulls for the last playoff spot.

NOTES: Milwaukee signed F Steve Novak to a free-agent contract. Novak appeared in 35 games for Denver and Oklahoma City this season and averaged 1.8 points in 5.6 minutes. He was traded to the Thunder on Feb. 18 and waived the next day. The Bucks are the ninth team for Novak, a Milwaukee-area native who played four years with Marquette University. ... To make room for Novak on the roster, Milwaukee waived F Chris Copeland, who appeared in 24 games and averaged 2.1 points and 0.5 rebounds. ... Lakers G Kobe Bryant made his last appearance in Milwaukee, scoring 15 points with five rebounds, giving him 7,004 for his career. ... The Lakers routed the Bucks in their first meeting this season, a 113-95 decision Dec. 15 in Los Angeles, but Milwaukee now has won seven of the past 10 meetings between the two teams, including five in a row at the Bradley Center.

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