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Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James leads Los Angeles Lakers to statement win over Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks

Tonight's matchup between the two teams with the league's best record lived up to the hype, with the superstars putting on a show in a marquee national TV game.

Milwaukee opened up a nine-point first half lead but a monster third quarter for the Lakers ultimately led to a 113-103 win for the home team.

Here are some quick takeaways from the game.

MVP battle lives up to the hype

From opening night in the 2019-20 NBA season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has led the race for the MVP.

Entering tonight, the only player capable of making a last ditch effort to close the gap was LeBron James. With that in mind, tonight's battle between the two superstars was the number one talking point.

If James went in with the intention of making a statement, he did just that, finishing with 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Antetokounmpo put up 32 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

With scores all tied at 48 at halftime, a team needed to make a move.

In this case, it was LeBron James and the Lakers, as they outscored Milwaukee 39-28 in the third to open up an 87-76 lead with a quarter to play.

James was dominant in the period, scoring from all levels to pour in 14 points, ultimately giving the Lakers the seperation they needed to hold on for an important win that will see the season series end at 1-1.

Physical battle leads to free-throw disparity

This game had a genuine playoff feel, as the physicality and desperation of both teams was there for every one to see.

For Antetokounmpo, it took a matter of seconds for him to draw blood, when he drove into a crowd and received an errant blow to his mouth from a Lakers defender.

Then, in the second quarter, Robin Lopez was assessed a flagrant one foul for raising his elbows and catching JaVale McGee after securing a rebound.

The physicality of the contest between two of the league's best defenses led to plenty of trips to the free-throw line, which was an area the Lakers were able to cash in on.

Leading the free-throw count 38-23, the Lakers were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over despite struggling to shoot just 18.8 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

In a game that was decided by ten points, the +14 mark in made free-throws for the Lakers ended up being a huge difference maker on the night, with James and Anthony Davis combining to shoot 22-for-26 themselves.

Late in the fourth quarter Antetokounmpo would send fear through Bucks fans around the world after twisting his knee awkardly after being fouled on a drive to the basket. After taking some time to get to his feet, Antetokounmpo would get to his feet and limp away, before playing out the rest of the game.

This game was chippy, this game was intense, and overall, this felt like an NBA Finals caliber matchup.

Now we have to wait until June to find out if it comes to fruition.

Anthony Davis outplays Khris Middleton

Four All-Stars suited up in this game, with only one of them failing to top 30 points.

Anthony Davis was superb, particularly in the fourth quarter, finishing with 30 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

14 of those 30 points came in the final frame for Davis, as the Lakers repeatedly sent the ball to him in the post. Using his size and length, Davis was able to find enough airspace to knock down a series of jumpers or put the ball down and get to the free-throw line.

For the Bucks, their second All-Star, Khris Middleton struggled through a rare poor night, finishing with just 12 points on 5-for-19 from the field and 2-for-10 from three.

Averaging 20.9 points on better than 50-40-90 shooting splits, Middleton has pieced together an incredible season thus far.

On a night where Milwaukee desperately needed a second star to help carry the load with Antetokounmpo, Middleton's rough shooting night proved costly.

Splash Mountain opens in timely fashion

The 2019-20 regular season has been a struggle for Brook Lopez when it comes to his outside shot.

After knocking down 36.5 percent of his 6.3 tries per game last season, Lopez has seen those numbers drop to 29.0 percent on 4.7 attempts.

Ironically, while the rest of the players on the floor struggled through a first half shooting slump, the man they call 'Splash Mountain' delivered, connecting on all three of his attempts to put together a 12 point, eight rebound first half.

Fading out of the game in the second half, Lopez would finish with just 13 points, missing his lone attempt from range.

The focal point of the Milwaukee defense and one of the best rim protectors in the league, Lopez a vital cog in the league's number one defensive unit, though, seeing him round into shooting form as the playoffs draw near will be critical to the Bucks chances of bringing a Championship to Milwaukee for just the second time.

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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