Anthony Davis scores 44 points, passes Antetokounmpo (40) to lead Lakers past Bucks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Anthony Davis and LeBron James shredded the best defense in the NBA and gave Los Angeles Lakers head coach Darvin Ham a triumphant return to Milwaukee.

Davis scored a season-high 44 points and James passed Magic Johnson on the NBA’s career assists list Friday night in the Lakers’ thrilling 133-129 win over the Bucks.

It marked Ham’s first game in Milwaukee since taking over as coach of the Lakers after serving as an assistant on Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer’s staff from 2018-22.

Ham and Budenholzer shared a big hug before the game.

“It was a beautiful night,” said Ham, who also played for the Bucks from 1999 to 2002.

It was also a great night for Davis, a Green Bay Packers fan who delivered his big performance with Aaron Rodgers in the stands. Davis spoke with the Packers’ four-time MVP quarterback before and after the game.

“I saw him before the game and he said, ‘I need 30 tonight,'” Davis said. “I just saw him and he was like, ‘I just said 30, not 40.’ It’s always nice for him to go out and see the Lakers play.”

James made a tied 3-pointer with 3:22 left and finished with 28 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. He increased his career assist total to 10,144 and moved into sixth place, ahead of Johnson’s 10,133.

“It means a lot, obviously,” James said. “The way Magic approached the game was very infectious. His teammates loved playing with him because of the joy he played with and ability to pass the ball and get other boys involved. He was always thrilled to see his teammates being fantastic. I’ve always admired it in him. What’s even more humbling and super cool is the fact that I’m doing it in a Laker uniform and knowing how much Magic means to the Laker franchise.

The Lakers had the highest point total and field goal percentage (. 536) that the Bucks had allowed all season. Milwaukee entered Friday with the top scoring defense in the NBA.

“It was too easy, too easy, too easy,” said Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. “They lived in the paint. That’s not who we are.

Los Angeles withstood a 40-point performance from Antetokounmpo, who also had seven rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers also marred the 2022-23 debut of Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, who had 17 points and seven assists in his return from offseason wrist surgery.

Milwaukee missed two potential 3-point shots in the final 20 seconds.

After Davis missed a fadeout jumper, the Bucks called a timeout with 21.4 seconds left and then found an open Grayson Allen, whose 3-point attempt went off the edge.

The Lakers’ Russell Westbrook missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds left, but Jrue Holiday failed to connect on a 3-pointer with just over five seconds left. Davis hit a game-winning free throw with 4.5 seconds left.

“Grayson had a good look,” Budenholzer said. “Good execution. Good projection. We will live with that blow all the time. And Jrue, similar. We gave football the lead by playing against a defense that wasn’t set up. Jrue, kind of a good pace for him. It was contested, but Jrue was 6 of 12 (3-pointers) tonight. He felt it.

Holiday had 28 points for the Bucks and Bobby Portis added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Westbrook had 15 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers.

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Anthony Davis Scores 44 Goals, Passes Antetokounmpo (40) Leads Lakers Past Bucks Originally appeared on NBCSports.com

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