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Bucks cruise past health-challenged Lakers

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Jan 01 2014 06:34:16 AM CST
Updated On: Jan 01 2014 01:34:02 AM CST
closeup of basketball seams, ball

Jason Antony/SXC

LOS ANGELES -

Misery loves company. The cliche couldn't be more appropriate for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Milwaukee guard Brandon Knight scored a career-high 37 points, and the Bucks earned a 94-79 victory Tuesday night over the reeling Lakers before a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center.

The Bucks, who have the worst record in the NBA at 7-24 and own a 4-12 mark on the road, ended a three-game losing streak and won for the second time in 10 games. They also extended the Lakers' skid to a season-high six games.

Injuries continue to take a toll on the Lakers, who lost Jordan Farmar on Tuesday. The point guard left the game with hamstring tightness, and he is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Wednesday.

For Milwaukee, however, the New Year's Eve game was a celebratory affair.

"My teammates did a great job (of) just running the floor, running the lanes, and I think that opened it up for me," said Knight, who hit 15 of 25 shots from the floor, including three of eight 3-point attempts. "But it started with our defense. We got after it defensively. Part of it was them missing shots, but I also want to give credit to our guys for contesting those shots.

"Guys did a great job of just playing hard and sticking with it and keeping the energy up. We normally have lapses, but I thought we did a great job tonight of taking their runs and fighting back."

Milwaukee forward Ersan Ilyasova scored 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, while guard Luke Ridnour added 11 points.

Center Pau Gasol and guard Nick Young scored 25 each to lead the Lakers, who lost at home to two of the league's weakest clubs in a three-day span. The Philadelphia 76ers captured a victory over the Lakers on Sunday at Staples Center.

"We're struggling. We just didn't play well," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We didn't do anything well. Yep, we're down at the bottom."

The Lakers (13-19) experienced an awful start and never recovered against Milwaukee, which won its first game against a Western Conference club in seven attempts. Los Angeles missed its first 11 shots from the field before Gasol finally hit a jumper nearly seven minutes into the game. By then, Milwaukee had a 14-2 lead. The Bucks led by as much as 17 before Los Angeles cut the margin to 23-12 at the end of the quarter.

By the half, the Bucks held a 42-33 lead as they limited the Lakers to 28.3 percent shooting (13 of 46) while hitting 40.8 percent (20 of 49) from the floor. Overall, the Bucks shot 44 percent (40 of 91) to 35.8 percent (29 of 81) for the Lakers. Milwaukee also outscored Los Angeles 42-26 in the paint.

"I think our defense was the key," said Ridnour, who scored all of his points in the second half. "It got us out to a good start and built some confidence. As long as our defense is solid, that's going to help."

Knight provided the bulk of the offense. He scored 18 of his points in the third quarter, hitting eight of his 12 shots and helping the Bucks stretch their lead to as much as 22 points. A 3-pointer by forward Khris Middleton gave Milwaukee a 72-50 advantage with 2:22 remaining, but the Lakers closed with a 10-2 run to pull to within 74-60 heading into the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles, however, never managed to get any closer than nine in the fourth.

Even before Farmar exited, the Lakers were short-handed.

Forward Wesley Johnson missed the game due to gastroenteritis, and guard Xavier Henry is expected to be out for seven to 10 days with a bone bruise in his right knee. Henry suffered the injury in Sunday's loss to the 76ers.

In addition, forward Chris Kaman, who has complained publicly about his lack of playing time, is nursing a sprained ankle. D'Antoni said Kaman could have played, but the coach chose not to use him.

"We've got to somehow band together and figure it out anyway," D'Antoni said. "We can't use (injuries) as an excuse. We've got a couple of days to figure this out, but we do have to get some guys back from injury. We've got to get a little lucky a little bit."

NOTES: Bucks G Luke Ridnour got the start instead of F Khris Middleton to give the team another ball-handler, coach Larry Drew said before the game. Drew, who moved 6-foot-9 G/F Giannis Antetokounmpo inside to make room for Ridnour in the backcourt, also said he is seeking to find the right mix and provide his club a much-needed boost. Milwaukee used 18 different starting lineups over its first 31 games. By comparison, the Lakers used 17 different starting lineups in 32 games. ... The Bucks visit the Utah Jazz on Thursday, while the Lakers host the Jazz on Friday.