The Milwaukee Bucks find themselves in the midst of a 1-4 stretch at the moment, following a frustrating 103-99 loss against the Charlotte Hornets that stemmed from 20 turnovers. A nearly six-minute scoring drought in the first period for the Bucks allowed Charlotte to fight back from a 17-10 deficit at one point and end the period up 28-19. A rough offensive first half continued for both teams in the second period, with Milwaukee narrowly pulling ahead 48-47 by halftime. A slow-footed Bucks defense in the third gave up 36 to Charlotte in the third period while their offense went dry, putting them behind 74-83 heading into the final quarter. The late game execution was left wanting as Giannis Antetokounmpo threw a pass into the sixth row during a potential game-tying play. The Bucks didn’t pull it out from there.
The good news is that is still a regular season game, where the Bucks were missing many of their primary guys, their reinforcements were coming off injuries or COVID, etc. I understand any frustration, but there is still a loooong way to go before the Playoffs hit, and plenty of time to find their groove. This Hornets team plays a whip-fast offensive game that puts the Bucks in rotations aplenty, some experience that should be valuable as the games start to mean more, not to mention for this Thursday’s matchup against the Golden State Warriors.
Giannis piled up stats, but this wasn’t his finest performance. We’ve seen him put up 40+ in both games against the Hornets this season, and while he ended with 26 points, 13 boards and eight assists, I couldn’t help but feel like he looked a little gassed in this one. His six turnovers were costly, none more so than the pass to Pat Connaughton in the final seconds that went awry, but he also settled for plenty of shots outside of the paint. 50% of his shots came from either behind the arc or outside the paint. That’s probably fine in the grand scheme given he needs to work on those types of shots, but against a team with little to no interior defenders capable of deterring him, it sure was frustrating. I would’ve appreciated the Bucks trying to find other ways to get him the ball than forcing him to act as a primary ball handler all the time atop the key. The few times they got him the ball either in the paint directly or closer to the basket, he was able to find his way to the hole.
To be clear, he certainly wasn’t the reason this team lost tonight, but I didn’t think he dominated in the ways I thought he could against this particular team. I’m sympathetic to the idea the Bucks were missing the types of players that could set him up with passes in that area, but I still thought he settled some.
Giannis records a double-double in loss to the Hornets.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 11, 2022
26 PTS | 13 REB | 8 AST | 1 BLK pic.twitter.com/zb0Zdz0tH5
Jordan Nwora found his way. It wasn’t possible for him to get much worse than his 1-11 performance last Saturday, but he looked decisive in this one on top of his shot finding its way through the net. Outside of a stepback in the first, he let the ball come to him and generally pulled the trigger quickly, or used his initial step to drive past his man and get to the rack in an orderly fashion. He’s been shooting 40% on catch-and-shoot opportunities from deep vs. 33% on pull-ups, which matches the eye test, and that part of his game is what could help him stay on the court even with his defensive lapses. He ended with 18 points on 7-10 shooting.
Donte DiVincenzo, meanwhile, is still wandering. In a surprising return from what I presumed would be a longer absence after he rolled his injured ankle, DiVincenzo looked acutely like a player in his third game since this Spring. His shot wasn’t falling, and while he still found some decent lift on rebounding opportunities and defensive gambles, it’s quite clear it’s going to take some time for him to regain whatever form he found heading into last year’s Playoffs. The fact he couldn’t do much to deter Charlotte’s backcourt in this one, and had a painful foul on a Rozier triple attempt that deferred some Milwaukee momentum...not great. I’m incredibly doubtful he gets shipped before the deadline, so he’s got around 40 games to get into Playoff shape, possibly building up that value for a potential sign-and-trade this summer. He had two points, four rebounds on 0-8 shooting, ending the night -22.
Bonus Bucks Bits
- After a rough night shooting Saturday evening, it was nice to see Jordan Nwora open this game with a confident, aggressive drive to the rack where he got a floater to fall.
- I got stuck with the Hornets broadcast on NBATV, and they briefly used a camera angle from along the baseline, shooting action on the completely opposite end of the court. I genuinely can’t think of a less desirable angle to watch. Kudos to them.
- I had to chuckle at Charlotte’s fast break finishing dichotomy in the first. At one point, they had numbers and, as usual, lofted the ball into the air while PJ Washington leaped up to slam it home emphatically. They tried the same move a few minutes later to Gordon Hayward, who barely left the ground and just managed to complete the oop with a layup.
- It’s no surprise given he’s been one of the league’s best rim protectors for years, but you could really feel the impact of Giannis at the rim in this one versus when he wasn’t. In the second period alone he had a number of really impressive contests that forced the likes of PJ Washington and Miles Bridges to contort and miss their shots. The Hornets finished 15-31 at the rim; just hyper-stingy numbers.
- Mamu blocked Miles Bridges. Yes, it was surprising. More surprising was the trepidation he showed nearly every time he got the ball offensively. His worst possession was a seal late in the third, where Giannis gave it to him with prime position for an easy hook shot. He hesitated and threw up a wild one on his second attempt.
- I remain stupefied by Giannis Antetokounmpo somehow becoming a competent (for him) spot-up 3-point shooter. That shot has always been a smaller part of his game than pull-up triples, and he’s usually in the mid to low 30’s, but he’s been 9-23 (39%) on them coming into this game. He hit another one in the second period.
- Giannis shot the technical free throw tonight for Charlotte’s defensive 3-second violation...and he missed short by quite a bit.
- Khris Middleton found his way in the fourth quarter of this one after a mildly rocky start, ending with 27 points, seven boards and 11 assists. Yes, you never want seven turnovers, but given he had to be the primary ball handler for much of tonight, I’ll just count that as including what would’ve been Jrue’s turnovers too.
4th quarter surge for Khris who finishes the night with a double-double.— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) January 11, 2022
27 PTS | 7 REB | 11 AST | 3 STL pic.twitter.com/HXdQGBcwu4
- I know they made their way back into this game through the fourth, but I thought Darvin Ham stuck with the 2-3 zone too long. Charlotte was getting great shots, easily, but thankfully they missed a decent chunk of them.
- The Hornets’ speed and agility really seemed to nullify Bobby Portis’s offensive game and he couldn’t keep up with them on the other end. Just a rough matchup overall for him.