Howard, Hornets earn weekend split with Bucks
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Dwight Howard didn’t decide until shortly before game time that he would be able to play Saturday night.
It turned out to be a great decision, as Howard scored 21 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to lead the Charlotte Hornets to a 111-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at the Spectrum Center.
Consider it part of a bizarre night in which the Hornets rallied from an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter and spent most of the fourth quarter at the free-throw line. They wound up attempting 40 free throws to Milwaukee’s 17.
Howard had played only four minutes in the Hornets’ 109-104 loss at Milwaukee on Friday night because he suffered a dislocated finger on his left hand. He was listed as questionable going into Saturday’s game before he decided to try to play.
“It says a lot about Dwight,” Hornets associate coach Stephen Silas said. “I mean, last night I wasn’t sure if he was going to be out a month, two months, based on the way it kinda looked, the way it was popping out. But he played a really good game and demanded the ball on the inside, and I thought the guys did a great job of giving him the ball, and he also mixed in his pick-and-roll game as well. When he does that, he’s really hard to guard. He was definitely a force in the middle tonight.”
Howard finished 7 of 11 from the field and 7 of 12 from the line. He also had two blocked shots.
“When our bench plays great and our starters come out with the right energy, we’re tough to beat,” Howard said. “The one thing we’ve got to do is be more consistent. I think in the New Year we’re going to get there. We’re playing better and we’ve just got to be more consistent.”
The Hornets (12-21) snapped a two-game losing streak and salvaged a weekend split with the Bucks on a rare set of back-to-back games between the teams.
The Hornets also got 19 points and eight assists from Kemba Walker, 14 points apiece from Treveon Graham and Frank Kaminsky, and 13 points from Jeremy Lamb.
The Hornets trailed 73-55 five minutes into the third quarter before storming back to cut the deficit to 85-81 after three quarters. Then they went to the line time after time in the fourth quarter and won the game with free throws. They finished 30 of 40 from the free-throw line to Milwaukee’s 14 of 17.
Michael Carter-Williams hit two free throws with 8.4 seconds left to push the lead to 107-103, and Walker added four free throws in the final 6.2 seconds to seal the victory, although Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton had a chance to tie with a 3-pointer with four seconds left but missed.
“We just started playing harder,” Silas said of the comeback. “There wasn’t really anything that we did tactically different. I just told the guys if they wanted to win they were going to have to do it on the defensive end and play harder. Treveon got us going a little bit and then everybody kind of fed off him.”
The Bucks (17-14) had a two-game winning streak snapped.
They played without leading scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out with right knee soreness. Antetokounmpo came into the game as the NBA’s second-leading scorer at 29.6 points per game.
“Tonight was hard,” Middleton said. “It was a back-to-back so it’s hard to keep that same pace. Guys were tired and we were a man short, so we just tried to play collectively, to push the pace and find the best shots.”
Middleton led the Bucks with 31 points. Eric Bledsoe and John Henson scored 16 points apiece, Sean Kilpatrick and Tony Snell scored 11 each, and Malcolm Brogdon scored 10.
“On the offensive end, we had some great looks that we just didn’t finish inside the paint or outside the paint,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “When you get wide open looks, you’ve got to be able to knock them down. On the defensive end we fouled maybe a little too much. They shot 40 free throws. It’s hard to beat a team when you foul that much. But we gave ourselves a chance on the road, and we just came up short.”
NOTES: This was the fourth and final game between the teams this season. The teams split the four, with the home team winning each game. ... The Hornets have now shot 275 more free throws than their opponents this season, which is the biggest difference in the NBA. ... The Bucks were also without F Mirza Teletovic (left knee surgery) and F Jabari Parker (left knee surgery). ... The Hornets were without F Cody Zeller (left knee surgery). ... The Hornets are now 4-8 since coach Steve Clifford left the team to deal with an unspecified health issue. There is still no time frame on Clifford’s return. ... The Hornets recalled G Julyan Stone from Greensboro of the G League on Saturday. ... The Bucks will host Chicago on Tuesday. ... The Hornets will be off until Wednesday, when they will host Boston.