A great cure for losing is hitting shots, and boy did the Bucks do just that tonight in a primarily noncompetitive dispatching of the Charlotte Hornets, 118-108. From the jump, the Bucks found whatever shot they pleased en route to their second best shooting night of the season at 62.2%. Despite a little late game resistance from Charlotte, Milwaukee finds itself inching ever closer to clinching a playoff spot.
Tonight was Tony Snell’s night through and through, as he reached a career high 26 points. He started the game with 12 in the first quarter, and poured in a bevy of dunks throughout with clutch shots in the final minutes to keep Milwaukee humming. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 20 points, eight rebounds and two assists in a relatively quiet affair for him. Malcolm Brogdon put up another solid night, controlling the Bucks’ halfcourt offense and getting 14 points and 10 assists while Greg Monroe had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Khris Middleton was just 4-12 shooting for fourteen points and five rebounds.
Charlotte’s starters were rough. Kemba Walker led the crew with 26 points and five assists, but the only other starter in double digits was Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with 12 points and six rebounds. Otherwise, former UW standout Frank Kaminsky had 20 points on 9-15 shooting and Jeremy Lamb put forth a solid effort to reach 16 points.
Milwaukee finished the night with their second highest shooting percentage of the season, 62.2%, and Charlotte simply couldn’t keep up despite hitting 48.8%. They only hit 7-28 from deep though while Milwaukee sunk 14 of their 30 attempts from beyond the arc. The Hornets stayed in it late with an 11-point advantage at the free throw line and only four turnovers on the night, but the Bucks’ couldn’t miss enough shots to let them back into it.
Tony Snell started the festivities with a baseline slam, and kept it rolling from there with a layup and three off a dribble-hand off from Brogdon to open an 11-4 Milwaukee lead. Snell had himself quite the first quarter, continuing to knock down threes en route to a 12 points that staked Milwaukee to a 35-24 lead after one. Milwaukee shot 70% in the first.
The Bucks toyed with Charlotte to start the second, using extra passes almost to excess. Regardless, almost every shot they put up went in, and threes from Terry and Telly built a 50-28 lead. Kemba Walker tried to will a comeback, snagging an offensive rebound and hitting a deep three over Bucks’ defenders, but the Bucks’ simply refused to miss. After a Brogdon three and reverse layup, Spencer Hawes splashed an open above the break three to return a comfortable 22-point Bucks’ lead. Milwaukee led at the half 72-50.
Tony Snell led all scorers with 14 points, while Malcolm Brogdon had 12 points and five assists. Giannis and Middleton both had eight, and Greg Monroe feasted down low for nine points, seven boards and four assists. Charlotte’s box score showed a more woeful tale, as Kemba Walker’s 12 points and Jeremy Lamb’s 11 were the only noteworthy parts of the first half.
Milwaukee’s 71.8% shooting far eclipsed the putrid 42.1% performance from Charlotte, and the Bucks knocked down 9-16 from deep. Meanwhile the Hornets were just 2-15 from beyond the arc.
The pummeling didn’t relent in the second half, and Giannis knocked in a catch-and-shoot three early in the third quarter. Charlotte simply couldn’t get anything going offensively, with Kemba Walker taking some difficult jumpers against Brogdon’s defense. Halfway through, Thon Maker got his third assist off an offensive board and subsequently surveying the court before passing to Tony Snell for an open three in the corner and an 88-62 lead. Charlotte got some baskets down low, and finished out the quarter on a 14-6 run as Milwaukee went into the fourth up 94-76.
Despite Milwaukee finally regressing a bit from deep, they continued to find buckets in the paint. Giannis took one the length of the floor, and scooted right around Frank Kaminsky’s lame attempt at drawing a charge for an easy lay in. Unfortunately, Charlotte finally found some semblance of an offense. Kaminsky wormed his way for a midranger that Brogdon answered with a layup on the other end, but a Jeremy Lamb transition three brought Milwaukee’s lead to just 105-94 with 4:39 to go.
Fitting for a night that started with his quiet dominance, Tony Snell helped finish it off with several more confident plays. First, he took Charlotte baseline for another near thunderous slam, then he answered a Kemba Walker three with one of his own to keep it a 14-point game. Charlotte continued to try and force Milwaukee into bad decisions, but the Bucks nailed their free throws down the stretch and won out, 118-108.
- Thon Maker had four assists in this game. Everything with Thon feels like baby steps at this point, but he’s thrown only 13 assists this entire year. He’s never been sold as someone with a great “basketball feel”, particularly when it comes to passing, so seeing him reading the floor better is another positive sign for his development.
- In the first quarter, Giannis feigned the use of a screen, only to spin around and reject it, throwing his defender out of whack and muscling down low against Frank Kaminsky for the finish. It was a fine play for showing off his combination of point guard smarts, decent handle and improved strength.
- Milwaukee’s first half ball movement was some of the prettiest this season. Tons of extra passes, crisp tosses to cutters at the hoop and kickouts that led to overhead soccer passes. No matter where the Bucks seemed to pass, they were game to work it around the arc for a better shot. Nothing exemplified that more than Monroe passing up an open layup to kick out to Jason Terry in the corner for a three.
- Malcolm Brogdon absolutely controlled the Hornets’ defense tonight in the first half. Throughout, he coolly penetrated into the arc and waited for the roll man to get free. Rifling passes through defenders and into the lane, he found his usual partner Monroe and had another nifty toss to Hawes. He was hitting his jumpers tonight too, plus an in-between pull-up. He seems to have Kool-Aid Manned through the rookie wall. Related, he is officially averaging more minutes per game than Delly. Just .1 minute more, but still, more.
- Tony Snell had three dunks tonight. He had a reverse layup where he just tossed the ball over his head and past the arm of Nicolas Batum before it went in. He even vehemently directed Greg Monroe to set him a darn screen in the third quarter. His improvement is going to make him expensive this summer, and how the Bucks’ handle his contract remains one of the most interesting subplots of this offseason.
- Nicolas Batum man. I’ve generally been a fan, but he was entirely invisible tonight. He finished with just five points, four assists and two rebounds on 2-9 shooting. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to be the team that gave him the 5-year, $120 million contract he got.
- Another game, another tough night for Khris Middleton. He went just 4-12 from the floor, and is now just 16-53 in his last four games. Milwaukee’s won three of those, but the Bucks will be hoping this is just a phase rather than a byproduct of fatigue from his injury still hampering him.
- The telecast mentioned the Bucks’ improved opponent three-point percentage tonight during the month of March. It sat at 34.8% before tonight’s game after reaching 37.9% in February. Fans recall the low three-point percentage that assisted this team in the early going, and the volatility of the statistic throughout this year speaks to the general train of thought that the best way to defend the three is simply to prevent teams from taking it. Which, as everyone knows, is not the Bucks’ strong suit. They were the beneficiary tonight of a cold shooting game from the Hornets, but you may as well think of it as making up for the Bulls’ hot Sunday.
- Khris Middleton’s noggin knocked Marco Bellinelli in the nose tonight, inciting a generous flow of blood from the Italian. Bellinelli left the game at that point, but Middleton was unfazed.
- Turns out, hitting shots is very useful. Charlotte only turned the ball over four times, which meant Milwaukee’s fast break points were few and far between. Charlotte had a 15-2 fast break point advantage, a 54-50 advantage in the paint and hit six more free throws (23) than the Bucks even attempted. All of which are statistics that would make it difficult to imagine Milwaukee winning, but their sweet shooting night from deep got them the win.