LOS ANGELES — LeBron James had 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists to win his showdown with fellow All-Star Game captain Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 113-103 on Friday night in a clash of the NBA’s conference leaders.
Anthony Davis scored 14 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers split their season series with the league-leading Bucks (53-10).
Los Angeles was carried to its 10th win in 11 games overall largely by a superb performance from James, who scored 14 points in the third quarter and then kept LA ahead down the stretch. James capped his night with a one-handed spinning dunk with 27 seconds left, sparking the last of many “M-V-P!” chants for him at Staples Center.
Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks, who have lost two of three games for the first time since October. Donte DiVincenzo scored 17 points for Milwaukee, which has still won seven of nine overall.
Antetokounmpo finished strong with a 12-point fourth quarter after two fairly quiet periods, but Milwaukee just couldn’t catch up to the Lakers in the waning minutes of one of the NBA’s marquee regular-season matchups
Antetokounmpo is widely expected to win his second straight NBA Most Valuable Player award over James, but that didn’t stop Staples Center from serenading LeBron in the second half. James has transformed himself into the league’s assists leader this season to get the most out of Davis while still maintaining his own offensive excellence.
The Lakers took the lead for good on James’ 3-pointer with 8:59 left in the third quarter. James scored his 34,000th career point during the game, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone as the only players to hit the mark.
Antetokounmpo appeared to be headed for another monster game when he scored 10 points in the first four minutes at Staples Center, but he managed only two more in the first half when Los Angeles tightened up its defense.
The first half was largely dominated by physical defense and the 25 personal fouls called by the officials.
The Lakers made an 18-0 run in the third quarter to take their first significant lead at 68-55. James drove the surge with his scoring and playmaking, while Danny Green valiantly slowed the much bigger Antetokounmpo on defense.
Bucks: George Hill missed his second straight game with a bruised groin. … Both of Antetokounmpo’s NBA brothers play for these teams as well. Thanasis Antetokounmpo didn’t play off Milwaukee’s bench, while Kostas Antetokounmpo wasn’t in uniform for the Lakers.
Lakers: Dion Waiters wasn’t in uniform after signing with the Lakers earlier in the day. The veteran guard will wear No. 18 when he suits up, possibly this weekend. “He’s a guy that we think can really help us with his shooting and on the wing,” coach Frank Vogel said. … Davis (sore left elbow) and Alex Caruso (sore right hamstring) both played through minor injuries.
The Bucks beat the Lakers 111-104 in December in Milwaukee with a 34-point game from Antetokounmpo. The defeat was part of a four-game losing streak, but the Lakers responded with a 21-5 surge to stay on top of the West.
Bucks: Visit the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
Lakers: Face the Los Angeles Clippers as the road team on Sunday.