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Bucks vs. Hornets Final Score: Parker breaks out, but Bucks can't close in 98-95 loss

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Parker was great. Antetokounmpo was good. And Middleton was pretty good too. The Bucks lost, but who cares?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A career night from Jabari Parker should have highlighted a Bucks' win over the Eastern Conference's eighth seed, but instead it will have to serve as a positive note in a disappointing loss. Despite leading by as many as 13 in the second half, the Bucks couldn't hold onto their lead and ultimately lost 98-95 to the Hornets in the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Friday night.

The first quarter looked like a game between two teams that hadn't played in over a week with bobbled passes, sloppy dribbles, and awkward shots a plenty. Near the end of the quarter, the Hornets started to get into a bit of a rhythm and took a six point lead before Michael Carter-Williams banked in a three from deep to cut the Bucks' deficit to just three at 28-25.

After the sloppy first quarter, the Bucks appeared to get a little more comfortable in the second quarter and eventually found their way to tying the game at 52 at the half. Jabari Parker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Carter-Williams were all in double digits at the end of the half with Parker standing out with 12 points, five rebounds, and two assists in the first half.

The Bucks took control in the third quarter. After a slow start to the period, a pair of jumpers from Parker and a Miles Plumlee tip dunk helped start a 22-5 run that gave the Bucks 74-61 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter. The Bucks' defense was smothering the Hornets throughout the run, but couldn't close out the quarter quite as strongly, allowing Charlotte to cut the Bucks' lead to just eight after three quarters.

With a 78-70 lead to start the quarter, the Bucks were in good shape to pick up a win in their first game after the All-Star Break, but they quickly squandered their lead by allowing a 12-4 run that left the game tied at 82 with six minutes remaining. The game went back and forth with a Khris Middleton bucket eventually cutting the Hornets' lead to 92-91 with 1:52 left.

A defensive stop gave the Bucks a chance to take the lead, but Middleton missed a jumper, which Parker rebounded and promptly turned over. After the turnover, the Bucks fouled Cody Zeller, who put in both of his free throws to give the Hornets a three point lead. On the following possession, the Bucks wasted most of their possession, but were bailed out by a Jeremy Lamb foul on a forced Middleton three at the end of the shot clock. However, Middleton hit just two of three and Marvin Williams hit a tough floater on the following Hornets possession to again give the Hornets a three point lead at 96-93 with 24 seconds left.

Following a timeout, the Bucks were able to cut the Hornets' lead to just one as two defenders flew to Middleton at the three point line and left Antetokounmpo all alone in the middle of the lane for a dunk. After taking a timeout to advance the ball, the Hornets turned it over thanks to Middleton's pressure, giving the Bucks a chance to win the game with 17 seconds remaining. Instead of working the clock for a final shot, the Bucks quickly went to a pick and roll with Middleton and Monroe, but Middleton wasn't particularly close on a pull-up jumper. Nicolas Batum corralled the miss and drained two free throws to give the Hornets a three point lead with five seconds left. After a timeout, the Bucks were able to get Middleton a good look at a left wing three, but the shot rimmed out and the Bucks fell to the Hornets 98-95.

For one of the first times this season, Parker was able to put two quality halves together on the same night and ended the game with 23 points and 11 rebounds, both marks tying career highs. Antetokounmpo also had a good all-around night with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. And, of course, the third young Buck Middleton put up a decent night with 20 points, seven assists, and four rebounds despite missing his first seven two point shots. Obviously, a loss is a loss, but it feels a lot better when all three of those guys have good nights.

The Bucks are on their way out of Milwaukee quick tonight with a game in Atlanta against the Hawks tomorrow night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CST.

Tidbits:

  • We'll start with some pregame comments from Kidd that I'm sure people will find interesting. When asked about the trade deadline and Antetokounmpo and Parker, Kidd mentioned that "they're in the vault" and "untradeable".
  • Since Parker and Antetokounmpo shooting threes has been such a hot topic, I asked if Parker's restrictions would be lifted after the All-Star Break and he would be allowed to shoot threes. Kidd said, "Shooting the three will come for both him and Giannis. You'll see a couple more attempts at the three, as you can see Giannis is taking more attempts, which we've all encouraged. It's just about comfort level for Jabari being able to step out and shoot the three. And I think he'll be able to get there by the end of these 28 games."
  • It's not exactly something you would Vine, but in the final minutes of the second quarter, Parker hustled for an offensive rebound and threw a pretty look-away assist to Middleton for a corner three. UPDATE: Frank Vined it:
  • The first half ended with an Antetokounmpo chase down block of Marvin Williams.
  • Rashad Vaughn took six three pointers Friday night. He didn't make one. It was the first time he took six or more threes in a game. (He had taken five threes three times this season.)
  • Greg Monroe took two shots (season low) and missed both of them (season low). He ended the night with four points, which ties a season low.

Thoughts:

  • Antetokounmpo again found Plumlee for a lob on one of the game's first possessions. He has done that many times in pick and rolls, but recently he's found Plumlee on lobs in half court situations as well.
  • Parker is fantastic working the baseline. He puts himself in the right spot, gets lost behind defenders and then makes the right cut to make it easy to use his athleticism for a bucket.
  • In the first quarter, Antetokounmpo threw the ball to the corner for a Rashad Vaughn three on a fastbreak. Parker did it later on in the first half in a similar situation, but threw his pass to O.J. Mayo. I support both players trying to throw better passes in all situations, but both are so lethal on the break that they should probably just attack the rim whenever they get the chance.
  • I have no idea if Miles Plumlee is a starting caliber NBA center. I do however know that whether it is a rebound, a block, or a tip dunk, Plumlee will use his athleticism to aggressively attack the ball and that is undoubtedly a very good thing. His aggressive dives to the rim give the Bucks a completely different look from the one they have with Monroe on the floor. He was pretty great in his 18 minutes Friday night.
  • Monroe looked completely lost tonight. He obviously didn't really score, or even shoot, and had four turnovers, which was particularly troubling given he was often matched against Al Jefferson, a poor defender who was playing for the first time since tearing his meniscus six weeks ago. Just a bad performance that hopefully won't be repeated at any point this season.
  • Vaughn didn't hit a three tonight, but I don't know if he's ever looked more confident this entire season. If he plays like that after the All-Star Break, there could be a bunch of really fun nights...along with a couple of really bad nights.
  • After a couple of sloppy early turnovers, Michael Carter-Williams was very effective scoring in the first half, hitting four shots before finishing with 14 on 6/7 shooting. After banking in his three to end the first quarter, he buried another from the top of the key before missing one in the second half. He also added a terrific end-to-end drive and slam in transition.
  • As good as Parker was overall, he reminded us of his penchant for defensive lapses with some seriously lackadaisical pick-and-roll defense in the first half: