The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks meet at Fiserv Forum on Thursday night. Although they have games to play before then, at the time of writing they share the best record in the NBA at 23-3. Milwaukee are four games ahead in the loss column in the Eastern Conference – the same goes for the Lakers in the West.
There will be three MVP candidates on the court on Thursday. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the bookies’ favourite to retain the award, while Anthony Davis and LeBron James are in the top five. Luka Doncic – another strong contender for the leading individual award – faces Antetokounmpo over the next few days, too.
Definitive is too grand a word for Milwaukee’s week. Losses to Dallas and the Lakers won’t make them crumble, nor will it suggest they’re no more than a flat-track bully. Wins in both, however, would put down a marker. A marker that this isn’t just a Bucks outfit that is favourites in the East – they could well be favourites to win it all.
Both teams have faced some challenging opponents, making a soft schedule criticism a bit shallow. There’s no denying things have been a bit easier than they could have been, however, and the remainder of 2020 will provide major tests for the Bucks and Lakers.
As it stands, Milwaukee and Los Angeles are riding winning streaks. One of those will come to an end this week.
The Lakers and Bucks rank in the top five in adjusted defensive and offensive ratings. Antetokounmpo and Davis are frontrunners for Defensive Player of the Year. James leads the league in assists and it isn’t close. Thursday’s meeting sees the elite take on the elite at both ends of the floor.
Talk shows will react to this game dramatically, and with the Bucks and Lakers only facing each other twice over the 82-game season, who can blame them?
These two are far and away the best teams in the NBA so far this year. Along with the Clippers, they are two of the three favourites for the title. Thursday could lock the Bucks or Lakers in as favourites.