The Bucks had the opportunity to become the first team to 50 wins in the NBA this season against the tired and struggling Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night at Fiserv Forum. Frank Kaminsky returned to his home state and followed Kemba Walker into Milwaukee to try and knock off the top-seed Bucks. A big second half was needed, but Giannis led his team to a 131-114 win to start their next win streak.
The normal starters began the game for the Bucks and Malcolm Brogdon kicked it off with a three on the first possession on a kick out from Giannis. In the first four minutes of the game Brogdon, Brook Lopez, and Eric Bledsoe had already hit at least one three each. Kemba Walker, a teammate of Giannis and Khris Middleton’s at the All-Star game, had the first seven of the Hornets eleven points before the first timeout at 6:19 in the first.
Former Wisconsin Badgers star Frank Kaminsky checked in after the timeout which prompted a cheer from the crowd in Milwaukee. Frank the Tank hit a three on the next possession to tie the game at 14. That shot was the beginning of a 21-10 run from Charlotte for the rest of the first quarter and they held the lead, 32-24. Walker was 5-7 from the field with 12 points, Miles Bridges was a perfect 3-3 with 7, and Kaminsky was 2-2 from deep for 6 in the quarter. Brogdon led the Bucks with 9 points on 3-5 from the field.
Bridges began the second quarter with a put back dunk next to Giannis in the paint. The offensive struggles continued for Milwaukee and they found themselves down 43-31 with 7:46 left in the half and Coach Bud called a timeout to adjust. The Bucks average over 117 points a game so they were nowhere near that pace in the first half. Not to mention that the Hornets played last night in Charlotte while the Bucks had an extra day and stayed home.
This was Donte DiVincenzo’s second game since returning from injury and he proved to be vitally important in the second quarter. He provided multiple plays that changed the intensity of the game for Milwaukee and ultimately cut the lead to just seven with 4:35 left in the second quarter to force a timeout from Charlotte. The Bucks closed out the half shooting much better than the first 18 minutes of the game and found themselves down 59-55 going into the locker room. Malcolm Brogdon led all scorers with 13 points on 5-7 shooting followed by Giannis and Bledsoe with 8 each. Kemba led the Hornets with 12 points 5-12 from the floor. Batum, Bridges, Kaminsky, and Lamb scored 9 points each for Charlotte. The Hornets outshot Milwaukee 51.1% to 40.1% from the floor and 47.1% to 32.1% from deep in the half.
The first four shots of the third quarter were missed before Miles Bridges got a two to go. The six point margin got as low as two before a Kemba three with 7:11 left in the third forced a timeout from the Bucks. Milwaukee continued their aggressive offense from the end of the first half but didn’t have an answer for Kemba Walker. The Hornets were hot from three and no amount of layups can make up for that kind of shooting.
Nikola Mirotic proved to be the Bucks hottest outside shooter and hit a three out of the timeout to bring them back within two. A pair of free throws from Lopez on the next possession and the game was tied for the first time since the first quarter at 73. Lopez proceeded to take control of Frank Kaminsky in the paint and grab a three point lead with three minutes left in the quarter. Milwaukee held a 94-87 lead going into the final period behind an 18-point third quarter by Brook Lopez to lead the Bucks in scoring with 25.
Giannis got the scoring going in the fourth quarter with a couple of free throws. He then hit two threes on consecutive possessions to give Milwaukee their largest lead of the game at 102-91. Giannis ultimately scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter for the Bucks before he set a screen that gave Brogdon a wide open three. A steal from Giannis and layup from DiVincenzo forced a timeout with 7:23 left in the game, up ten.
DiVincenzo continued to be a difference maker for the Bucks and hit a three with a foul to put him in double-digits on the night. The next possession saw another Mirotic three and the Bucks had opened the game up to 16 points, the largest lead for either team. With an 18 point lead and just over two minutes left to play, Coach Bud took the starters out and put in the victory lineup. The bench unit closed it out and Milwaukee took home their second straight win, 131-114.
Giannis led the home team with 26/13/6 on 7-11 from the field, 2-4 from deep, and 10-10 from the line.
Brook Lopez was just behind with 25/8/2 on 7-11 from the field, 1-5 from deep, and 10-10 from the line.
Brogdon and Mirotic each had 18 points on a combined 7-11 from three. Bledsoe and DiVincenzo had 11 points each on a combined 6-11 from deep.
Kemba led the Hornets with 25/3/4 on 11-22 shooting on the night. Frank Kaminsky finished second in points for Charlotte with 16 on 4-5 from deep.
Team shooting was very similar between the two. The Bucks shot 48.9% from the field and 38.6% from three. The Hornets shot 47.3% from the field and 38.5% from three.
Milwaukee saw an early lead vanish behind cold shooting and transparent defense. It didn’t help that Charlotte was hitting over half of there three point attempts for the greater part of three quarters. But the Bucks are still the best team in the league and they always have an answer that is often unpredictable. Tonight that answer was Donte DiVincenzo. He entered early in the game for Pat Connaughton who was struggling and showed that he had really missed playing over the past couple of months. Donte was all over the floor, finding the open spot on the perimeter and getting on the floor when there was a loose ball. The three ball returned for Milwaukee in the second half and they were able to put away a struggling team on the latter part of a back-to-back. The Hornets fall to 30-36 on the season and sit in the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the first team to reach 50 wins this season and improve to a league best 27-5 at home. They hold a 3-game lead over Toronto and still 8 games over the three seed with 16 games to play in the season. The Bucks start a three-game road trip on Sunday night in San Antonio to take on the 37-29 Spurs. Tip is at 7:00 p.m.