Guys, we just did this. Last night, the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Charlotte Hornets, and tonight both teams travel to the East Coast for their final matchup of the regular season.
It’s not a Bucks game unless something weird happens, right? Last night, the weirdness was seeing Khris Middleton at the 5, playing with Matthew Dellavedova, Malcolm Brogdon, DeAndre Liggins, and newcomer Sean Kilpatrick. Head coach Jason Kidd addressed it in his postgame press conference:
"This was a tough game. [There were] a lot of emotions in that last game...we found ways down the stretch to make plays on both ends.” pic.twitter.com/pQhhYpTlDK— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) December 23, 2017
On the injury front, both Tony Snell and Delly appear to be back to normal after returning recently from their respective knee injuries. Jabari Parker and Mirza Teletovic continue their extended absences, and Jason Terry will be active but hasn’t seen the court since returning from his own injury.
Player to watch: Malcolm Brogdon
With each member of Milwaukee’s “Marquee Three” making major contributions, the Bucks are often within striking distance late in games. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris, and Eric Bledsoe won’t always put the team over the top by themselves, which is why other key rotation players like Brogdon need to continue stepping up. Brogdon did so last night (the only other non-EKG Buck to score in double figures), and will probably need to again this evening.
Charlotte will have some tough obstacles to overcome in their rotation, with Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard both leaving the game with injuries last night:
INJURY REPORT: Kemba Walker left game late in 4Q after hitting his head on floor. He was evaluated by a physician and did not exhibit signs of a concussion postgame. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow in Charlotte.— Charlotte Hornets PR (@HornetsPR) December 23, 2017
INJURY REPORT: @hornets C Dwight Howard suffered a dislocated left ring finger. He is being evaluated and is questionable to return #BuzzCity— Charlotte Hornets PR (@HornetsPR) December 23, 2017
Without their leading scorer or leading rebounder, as well as big man Cody Zeller, the Hornets would be forced to rely on members of their rotation stepping up in a big way. If Walker can’t go, guard Michael Carter-Williams might get the starting nod, and he, Jeremy Lamb, and Malik Monk would have to bear the brunt of the guard minutes. Likewise without Howard (and Zeller), Charlotte will need to turn to Frank Kaminsky and Johnny O’Bryant for support down low.
These absences could presumably be good things for the Bucks.
Player to watch: Nicolas Batum
If the two of the Hornets’ top contributors are limited by injury, it could be Batum who picks up their slack. Batum, who returned from a nasty elbow injury himself, isn’t known to be a high-volume scorer, but has historically been a player who contributes in a variety of ways. Look for him to take on a larger load for Charlotte tonight.