Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks will try to avoid a letdown after perhaps their biggest win of the season when they host the slumping Charlotte Hornets on Friday in the front end of a home-and-home set. Behind 27 points, 14 rebounds and a season high-tying eight assists from Antetokounmpo, the Bucks got past red-hot Cleveland 119-116 on Tuesday to begin a two-game homestand.
“It was a big step for our team. It shows maturity,” Antetokounmpo told reporters after his team staved off a fourth-quarter rally. “Usually, in a situation like that, we give the game away.” Antetokounmpo ranks second in the NBA with a scoring average of 29.7 points and the only time he was held under 20 came at Charlotte on Nov. 1, when he finished with 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting. The Hornets were 5-3 after that result but soon thereafter dipped below .500 and are currently burying themselves amid a 3-11 stretch. They took an early lead against streaking Toronto on Wednesday before falling apart defensively in a 129-111 loss.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Charlotte), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
ABOUT THE HORNETS (11-20): Jeremy Lamb produced a career-high 32 points against the Raptors, making 11-of-17 shots after nine straight games in which he was under 50 percent from the field. “My teammates put me in great positions to score, and I was able to knock shots down,” Lamb told reporters. “But we were down 20 the whole game, so it doesn’t really mean much. We’ve just got to play better.” Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had two double-doubles in his previous four games, left Wednesday’s loss with a shoulder injury and he is day-to-day.
ABOUT THE BUCKS (16-13): Milwaukee is now 12-7 with point guard Eric Bledsoe in the lineup and the Kentucky product scored 26 points - his second-highest total since arriving via trade in November - in the win over Cleveland. Fellow guard Malcolm Brogdon is averaging 18 points while making 7-of-12 3-pointers over the last two games and hit double digits in all but one game this month as he gets more accustomed to his bench role. Brogdon had 20 points and four assists in the previous meeting with the Hornets.
1. Milwaukee made a franchise-record 19 3-pointers and F Khris Middleton scored a career-high 43 points in the loss at Charlotte last month.
2. Hornets PG Kemba Walker is averaging 12.7 points - more than eight below his mark for the season - while shooting 15-for-51 over the last three games.
3. The teams meet again Saturday in Charlotte to wrap up the four-game season series.
PREDICTION: Bucks 112, Hornets 101