Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Losers of nine of ten games, the Hornets snapped out of their month-long funk by walloping a sorry Bucks club that failed to execute on either end.
Was this the first game the Bucks have ever played together? Or perhaps they thought this was just a preseason game?
You'd be forgiven for getting that impression after watching Scott Skiles' troops serve up their worst effort of the season, a 102-81 laugher against a Hornets team that was missing Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon but still comprehensively outplayed them in virtually every aspect of the game. The starting big combination of Robin Lopez (8/10 fg, 21 pts) and Ryan Anderson (9/14 fg, 22 pts) beat them up inside and out, while Greivis Vasquez (12 pts, 5/9 fg, 9 ast) and Brian Roberts (10 pts, 5/7 fg, 5 ast) carved them up in P&R.
Brandon Jennings (25 pts, 10/23 fg) and Monta Ellis (17 pts, 5/12 fg, 6 ast, 4 to) as usual did the majority of the shooting and scoring for the Bucks, and in efficiency terms this certainly wasn't their worst effort. But the Bucks' offense was hopelessly disjointed for virtually the entire game, helping the Hornets pile up a 27-10 edge in points off turnovers. Give the Hornets credit for challenging shots, taking care of the ball (8 to) and keeping the Bucks from running (just 7 fast break points), but the Bucks also seemed to struggle with even the most basic aspects of offensive execution on Monday night on their way to shooting just 38%.
Not that their defense was much better. Milwaukee wasted another monster shot-blocking night from Larry Sanders (8 pts, 7 rebs, 7 blk, 2 pf in 25 minutes), as not even Sanders' efforts could prevent the Hornets from shooting an excellent 52% from the field. Ekpe Udoh and John Henson struggled to contain Anderson and Lopez, and the Hornets did the Bucks no favors by punishing them for surrendering open looks from mid-range. Mike Dunleavy came off the bench after missing Saturday's game with a sore knee, but his contributions were fairly subdued. And while Luc Mbah a Moute was utterly relentless inside (7 offensive rebounds), he struggled to finish against frequently undersized Hornets defenders.
The Hornets led by as many as ten in the first half despite surrendering 11 offensive rebounds, but Ellis' banked three at the end of the half trimmed New Orleans' lead to just three at the intermission. At that point you would have hoped the Bucks would have received their wake up call, but the second half proved otherwise. The Bucks fought back to lead 60-58 early in the third, but Lopez scored nine points in an 11-0 run and the shell-shocked Bucks never recovered. The Hornets led by ten after three and only extended the lead with their bench unit early in the fourth, as Jason Smith scored 10 of his 12 in the period and the Bucks could never mount a serious comeback.