Bucks finish off Hornets
MILWAUKEE — For a second straight game, the Milwaukee Bucks proved it is, in fact, better to be lucky than good.
Riding high after giving up a 20-point lead only to rally down the stretch for a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bucks lolly-gagged their way through the first half and then closed out strong, using a 9-0 run over the final minutes to beat the Charlotte Hornets 109-104 on Friday night at the Bradley Center.
“This was a tough game,” Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. “A lot of emotions in that last game that we played. Charlotte’s playing extremely well and hard, especially with their coach out. And understanding they’ve got a couple of guys over there that are all-stars, they were right there and we found a way down the stretch to make plays on both ends.”
Kemba Walker powered the Hornets for much of the contest, scoring a game-high 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting, including four 3-pointers.
But he suffered an apparent injury midway through the final quarter and wasn’t on the floor as Milwaukee mounted its late push.
“I’m not sure (what happened),” interim coach Stephen Silas said.”
Walker didn’t speak after the game, but a team spokesperson said Walker would be examined in the morning after the team returns to Charlotte.
The Hornets also played a majority of the game without Dwight Howard, who was limited to four minutes after dislocating his left index finger in the first quarter, and were without Treveon Graham, who missed his third straight game because of back spasms, leaving Silas to us a piece-meal approach to his lineup.
“We were banged up,” Silas said. “We were kind of putting lineups together that we haven’t done and those guys fought and fought.”
Khris Middleton scored 28 points to lead Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 24 and Eric Bledsoe missed five of six 3-point attempts but still finished with 24 point thanks to a 7-for-10 effort at the free throw line.
The Bucks assisted on 27 of 41 shots, hit 8 of 29 3-pointers and connected at a 47 percent clip overall while turning the ball over a season-low eight times.
“Our defense was helping our offense,” center Thon Maker said. “Especially when we get stops. When the game is slowing down like that, we just need to lock in and get stops and help one another. That was the biggest thing we did tonight.”
Early, though, it seemed like the Bucks were sill recovering from their victory three days earlier.
They led 26-23 after one quarter but a 20-7 Hornets run put Milwaukee down 10 and Charlotte took a 59-52 lead into halftime.
Walker hit a pair 3-pointers in the third but the Hornets still held a two-point lead despite shooting only 38 percent in the quarter while Milwaukee hit 10 of 20 shots, including five 3-pointers.
Charlotte went up by six on Jeremy Lamb’s 20-footer with 7:31 to play but couldn’t protect that lead. The game was tied four times over the next six minutes.
Middleton forced the last tie, taking a feed from Antetokounmpo for a dunk to make it 104-all with 1:48 left.
The Hornets missed their next four shots and Frank Kaminsky’s turnover with 1:07 left set up an easy Antetokounmpo dunk that gave Milwaukee a two-possession cushion.
“They had us in a rut for most of that game, especially in the first half,” Middleton said. “(We) just came on in the second half and tried to put more into the game. Didn’t want to mess around with them knowing we have to play them again tomorrow.”
NOTES: Hornets C Dwight Howard dislocated his left ring finger early in the first quarter. He had it taped during a timeout and returned to action but left later in the quarter and didn’t return. ... The Hornets had lost 13 consecutive games by three points or less, the longest streak in NBA history. ... Milwaukee has scored 100 points or more in 14 consecutive games and has allowed 100 points in 10 consecutive games. Both of those streaks are the third-longest in the NBA this season. ... Bucks PG Malcolm Brogdon finished with 14 points. He has reached double figures in scoring 14 times since moving to the bench 19 games ago when Milwaukee acquired Eric Bledsoe from Phoenix. ... The teams wrap up the season series Saturday night in Charlotte.