Wed. Final: Lakers 104, Bucks 98
By Todd Welter
Next game: Thursday, Apr. 2 at Philadelphia
It was a fight to the bitter end but Kobe Bryant and company were just too much for the Milwaukee Bucks to overcome. Bryant scored a game-high 30 points as the Los Angeles Lakers (59-16) topped the Bucks 104-98 at the Bradley Center.
The Bucks (32-44) seem to be showing signs of an empty tank as it is looking like they can no longer outrun the losses of Michael Redd (knee) and Andrew Bogut (back). Unable to outrun that problem has never been more clear than recently as the Bucks have dropped eight of its last 11 games. Milwaukee is currently 6-15 since the All-Star break and has seen its once strong playoff hopes flat-line into unlikelihood.
"Those are two of our key players but down the stretch we have been giving it all we got," Ramon Sessions said about the team's struggles in the season's second half without Bogut and Redd.
"If we have those guys, who knows what will happen. Two great players, of course we are missing those guys night in and night out," Sessions added.
That does not mean the Bucks are not going down without a fight. The Bucks put themselves in a position to win the game as Milwaukee shot 52.2% through three quarters and led 81-80 heading into the fourth. Milwaukee ran out of gas in the final quarter as the points came harder to come by as the Bucks had just six field goals. Attribute that poor shooting to the Lakers' defense down the stretch.
"The whole second half, they turned up their level of play a little bit," Bucks head coach Scott Skiles explained. "Their pressure bothered us. Our execution broke down a little bit and our shot selection was a little iffy. They were pretty sharp the whole second half. We really didn't have an answer for them."
The Lakers tied the game at 84 on a Pau Gasol dunk with 8:23 left. That dunk launched a 14-6 Lakers run that put L.A. up 10 with 3:47 left and enough space that the Bucks could not overcome. The Bucks charged back to get within three during the final minute but Bryant hit two free throws to seal up the win.
"Tonight, we just played a great Lakers team and that's what they do--they finish games," Sessions thought.
Richard Jefferson scored a team-high 29 points for Milwaukee. Sessions had a triple-double of 16 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds.
"I looked at [Richard Jefferson] at the end of the game and said, 'Man I don't know how Jason Kidd does it night in and night out,'" Sessions joked after he picked up his first career triple-double.
The whistles also were not in Milwaukee's favor as the Bucks only had nine free-throw attempts. The Lakers on the other hand had 36 free-throw attempts and knocked down 31 of them.
The start looked promising for the Bucks as they had a smooth shooting touch and built up a 10-point lead late in the first half. The Lakers closed out the half on a 14-7 run that left the Bucks with a 57-55 lead at the break.
The Bucks have a quick turnaround as they travel out east to face the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night.
The Bucks thin lineup got a little bit thinner and shorter when Francisco Elson left the game late in the third quarter with a right hip flexor strain. It is unknown how much time he will miss but he was seen being fitted for crutches in the locker room...The Bucks got a major scare early in the fourth quarter when Ramon Sessions inadvertently collided with the Lakers' Josh Powell. Sessions' shoulder struck Powell and Ramon dropped to the court clearly in pain. He did return a few minutes later...It was the first sellout of the season...In addition to Bryant's 30 points, four other Lakers scored in double figure points--Lamar Odom had 20 points, Gasol finished with 15 points, Sasha Vujacic registered 14 points, and Trevor Ariza scored 12 points...Dan Gadzuric had a decent night's work with 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting.