They are favored to meet in the NBA Finals . They boast two former league MVPs. Most unbiased observers would love to see the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks meet in the final series to close out what has been a hectic 2019-20 NBA season.
The two teams are now one step closer to that goal. Days after the Lakers clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, Milwaukee has followed suit back east.
Milwaukee struggled early against the Miami Heat at Walt Disney World in Orlando Thursday, falling down by 17 points at halftime. It was the continuation of some iffy play from the Bucks since they resumed their season about a week ago.
Once the third quarter got going, things changed in a big way. Milwaukee outscored the Heat 74-43 in the second half with a dominating performance.
Reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points on a ridiculous 13-of-17 shooting while grabbing 12 rebounds. Khris Middleton added 33 points of his own.
As noted, above Milwaukee had struggled out of the gate in Orlando. The team had lost two of its first three, including one of the biggest upsets in modern NBA history at the hands of the short-handed Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
This led to some concern that the four-plus month hiatus since the NBA season was suspended back on March 11 impacted the Bucks in a big way. Not so fast. When the team needed to turn it on, that’s exactly what Milwaukee did.
In Southern California, the Lakers opened up the resumption of the season with a narrow win over the Clippers. They followed that up by laying duds in two of their next three games, including a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. Despite this, LeBron James and Co. have clinched the top spot in the Western Conference.
Seeding might not mean much in that there’s no home-court advantage in the Walt Disney World bubble. But being able to wrap up the top seeds with about a handful of regular-season games remaining is huge for both the Bucks and Lakers.
It enables both teams to use the remainder of the regular season to tinker with their rotations. That’s no small thing given how long the NBA season was suspended due to the pandemic.
It also sets up pretty easy first-round matchups for both squads. As of right now, Milwaukee would go up against the 32-37 Magic in the initial round. Out west, the Lakers would take on a Memphis Grizzlies squad that’s reeling following the loss of star forward Jaren Jackson Jr. for the season.
In no way is it too early to look forward a few weeks. Once the regular season wraps up, it will be a mad scramble in the playoffs. Both the Lakers and Bucks are now set up extremely well. And in reality, it could lead to a long-awaited NBA Finals matchup between the two elite teams.