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Milwaukee Bucks vs. Charlotte Hornets Preview: The City’s Abuzz

Milwaukee aims for its 8th straight win

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Charlotte Hornets Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Longtime Milwaukee Bucks observers under Bud will know that a game against the Charlotte Hornets can mean only one thing: switching. For years, we got to watch Milwaukee go through the motions with their zone drop scheme before Bud pulled the trigger on switching dudes defensively to counteract the perennially undersized Charlotte squad. With switching a far more prominent part of their sans-Brook Lopez existence, we likely won’t have to wait as long. Let’s dig in.

Where We’re At

Nothing calms the masses quite like romping over a whole bunch of doormat teams en route to eight straight wins. Regardless of the quality in front of them, after the type of basketball we saw from much of this injury-riddled Milwaukee team to start, even a victory felt like not something to take for granted. Now, with their big three back, they’re steamrolling over opponents in a way slightly resembling the type of Bucks poundage to which we’ve grown accustomed. Jrue Holiday said it best:

Sunday’s 118-100 victory over the Pacers was a vintage inside-out game, featuring a 62-36 advantage in the paint. That was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 26 points and 13 boards, who simply overpowered Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon, both of whom looked puny as the Greek Freak commanded the ball in the post. Heartening to see really. Jrue Holiday wasn’t efficient, with 23 points on 21 shots, but he tacked on nine assists and is slowly looking more and more like his old self. Meanwhile, Khris Middleton has had the luxury of easing his way back in and still hasn’t tallied a 20+ point performance since returning. Maybe there’s an outburst brewing. One thing that is boogying for this team is the arrival of DeMarcus Cousins, who Bud said would likely be active for this game.

I have incredibly low expectations for Boogie, but hey, big names are fun!

On Charlotte’s side, they’ve started climbing the standings in a suddenly very crowded Eastern Conference. Or, at least, they were before the last two contests. They’re 7-3 in their last ten, but just lost a double OT game against the Rockets, and a 133-119 loss against the Bulls following that. The common thread between those two games: YIKES-level defensive performances. That could be understandable against Chicago, but Houston is a whole other story (although, the Bucks can hardly talk with last year’s loss vs. the Rockets). The Hornets are 28th in the league in terms of defense, and are outperforming their projected win total by two already. Right now they’re in the Portland Trailblazers zone of a top-five level offense, but a bottom cellar defense. Stylistically, they like to rush up and down the court, ranking top-five in terms of pace. That’s led by LaMelo Ball, who’s averaging 19 points per game and eight assists, but is shooting just 43% on twos. Thankfully, he’s got a running mate in Miles Bridges who’s taken a sizable leap this year, up to 19 points and averaging four free throw attempts per game — his 3-point shot is at merely 32% though, so look for the Bucks to go under screens against him.

On the injury front, Charlotte has a long list, with rookie James Bouknight, Vernon Carey Jr., Kai Jones and Mason Plumlee out. Cody Martin is questionable. Meanwhile, Milwaukee has the usual Brook, Donte and Semi out. Jordan Nwora is also probable with a left knee hyperextension

Player to Watch

I always liked Miles Bridges coming out of college, and it’s great to see him finally take a sizable step forward as a player. His high-flying dunking has always been the highlight, but he’s putting it together with finishing at the rim, drawing free throws (4.0/36) and an uptick in assists (3.2/36). He put up 26 & 21 respectively against Milwaukee last season in April, which might’ve portended some of his rise. I’ll be curious how he plays in this follow-up.


Game 22: Against Charlotte, the Bucks will...

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