Mid-December Top of the Standings Update

Giannis Antetokounmpo Toronto Raptors
Photo: Bleacher Report

The Milwaukee Bucks and the LA Lakers still rule on their respective dominions. The LA Clippers have shown their power and moved back up into the second place under the Lakers.

And the Miami Heat have warmed up, staying in second just a half-game over the Philadelphia 76er (as of Monday afternoon).

The Bucks have a challenging week. They saw the Dallas Mavericks defeat them at home and put an end to their 18-game winning streak.

Now, they get two days off at home before facing the top seed in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers.

The expert NBA picks over at SBR made another successful prediction, as the Mavericks covered the double-digit spread, mostly due to their fantastic bench play.

This achievement is even more remarkable, given they were forced to play without their superstar, Luca Doncic.

For their part, the Milwaukee Bucks were missing Eric Bledsoe in the meeting, yet Bledsoe is not as crucial for the Bucks tactics as Doncic is for the Mavs.

Bledsoe is averaging 15 points per game this season, almost a point better than his career average. He’s also adding 5.7 assists and 4.9 rebounds to the stats sheet. Not bad at all.

But, Doncic is almost a walking triple-double. He’s averaging 29.3 points per game, 9.6 rebounds and 8.9 assists. Basically, he’s two Eric Bledsoes.

The Bucks saw their franchise-best winning streak come to an end and that was a big surprise, not only because Dallas was without Doncic, but because they played at the Fiserv Forum.

And with Doncic out for the next week or two with an ankle sprain, the Mavericks are likely to slip from their stronghold at No. 3 down the Western Conference a bit.

Luka Doncic Dallas Mavericks
Photo: SKY Sports

But what about the Lakers? Will the Bucks be able to take down Lebron James, Anthony Davis, and company?

If Bledsoe is back, and they are fully healthy, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get the home win. The Lakers do have to come into Milwaukee for this one so the Bucks have the home edge.

We just phased this as the Bucks getting tested, but perhaps it’s the Lakers who are going to get tested.

After all, their November was basically a month where the Lakers played nothing but teams with losing records. Suddenly, they are going to get thrust into almost an entire month against teams with winning records.

On top of this, the Lakers will be on the road for a huge chunk of time. When they play in Milwaukee, they’ll be on the last leg of a five-game road stretch, then they’ll face the Denver Nuggets, who are winners, and the Clippers, who are also a winning team.

More than anything, though, most of us are curious to see how the Lakers fair in Milwaukee. So far they have handled their much tougher December schedule with nothing but wins – well, with an exception for their December 1st loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

LeBron James LA Lakers
Photo: SKY Sports

If the Lakers can make it through the month of December with just a loss or two, I think they will have proved that the early season easy schedule is not the reason they’ve been successful.

And they do play Dallas again on the 29th and Doncic may have returned to action by that day.

Right now, the Lakers are winning by an average of 9.3 points per game. As they average 113.3 points of offense, that means they still have one of the league’s best defenses. So far, they are allowing just 103.9 per game.

But, the Bucks are scoring 121.2 per night and allowing just 107.6…they have a ridiculous scoring margin of 13.6 points per game. Basically, the Bucks have just been crushing everyone they’ve come across for the last month and a half.

I imagine that the Bucks will be listed as favorites, maybe 6 or 7 points, over the Lakers in a couple of days. But we should be taking notes on how these two teams matchup when they play. Because it could be a preview of the NBA Finals.

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Photo: Bleacher Report

What are the strengths and weaknesses with the personnel and are the coaches misusing players with regards to how they are matched up or the roles they are putting them into.

The last two weeks of basketball in December is going to be exciting! So, don’t miss it.