MILWAUKEE — LeBron James scored a season-high 34 points in the opener of a seven-game road trip, helping the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks 113-106 on Thursday night (Friday, Manila time).
Los Angeles (12-4) bounced back after blowing a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter of a 115-113 loss to Golden State on Monday night. The Bucks (9-6) dropped their second straight.
The Lakers shot 19 of 37 from 3-point range, with James going 6 of 10 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope making 7 of 10. Caldwell-Pope finished with 23 points.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25 points and 12 rebounds for Milwaukee, but he also committed nine turnovers. Jrue Holiday scored 22 points for the Bucks, and Khris Middleton finished with 20.
This game pitted the reigning NBA champion Lakers against a Bucks team that has posted the league's best regular-season record each of the last two years.
It also featured the top two vote-getters in the 2019-20 MVP balloting. Antetokounmpo won the award for a second straight season. James, a four-time MVP, finished a distant second.
When the voting results were announced last fall, James acknowledged Antetokounmpo "had a hell of a season" but added that "not saying that the winner wasn't deserving of the MVP, but that (ticked) me off."
The Lakers were ahead 63-57 after a first half that featured seven ties and nine lead changes. The Lakers outscored Milwaukee 20-8 over the last 5½ minutes of the second quarter, including Caldwell-Pope's 35-footer at the buzzer.
Los Angeles stayed ahead throughout the second half.
Caldwell-Pope and James opened the third quarter with consecutive 3-pointers that extended the lead to 69-57.
After trailing 98-87 with less than 7½ minutes left, the Bucks cut the deficit to 102-100 when Middleton drove the baseline and scored with 3:05 remaining. Caldwell-Pope answered by sinking a corner 3-pointer with 2:42 left.
The Lakers' lead didn't drop below four points the rest of the way.
Anthony Davis had 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Lakers. Montrezl Harrell added 12 points.
The Bucks got 13 points from Brook Lopez and 10 from Donte DiVincenzo.
Lakers: This game marked a return to Milwaukee for Lakers guard Wesley Matthews, who played for the Bucks last season. Matthews' Wisconsin ties go beyond that; he went to high school in Madison and played college basketball at Marquette. Matthews scored six points.
Bucks: This game was supposed to be the first of a back-to-back for the Bucks. That changed when the NBA postponed the Bucks' Friday night home game with Washington to an undetermined date. NBA officials said the game was moved "due to the number of unavailable players for the Wizards, contact tracing for other players on their roster, and the length of time preceding the game during which the team was unable to practice."
The Lakers visit Chicago on Friday. The Lakers beat the Bulls 117-115 at home on Jan. 8.
The Bucks host the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday before going on a three-game road swing.
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