Hornets Head to Milwaukee to Battle East-Leading Bucks
By Sam Perley
Looking to follow up a much-needed home win Friday night over Washington, the Hornets will finish off a back-to-back on the road as they venture to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks beginning tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
Milwaukee leads the season series, 2-1, and won the most recent meeting at home, 108-99, back on Jan. 22. The Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Hornets, 32-12, in the frame, while getting 34 points and 14 rebounds from MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo. This was Charlotte’s fourth straight defeat in Milwaukee, although the teams have alternated wins and losses in their last seven head-to-head showdowns.
Still recovering from right hand surgery at the time, Cody Zeller did not play against the Bucks the last time out, which likely help contribute to a 66-42 Milwaukee advantage in paint points. The Indiana University product is averaging close to a double-double in 13 games since his return (12.3 PPG and 8.6 RPG) and continues to look noticeably energetic right now after dealing with late-season injuries the last couple of seasons.
Zeller will have an important matchup with first-year Buck Brook Lopez, a seven-footer who has quietly played a major role in Milwaukee’s spectacular campaign. Long known as a back-to-the-basket threat when he was with the Nets, Lopez has pulled a complete 180 in recent years and currently leads all NBA centers by a wide margin in three-point field goals (156 on 37.0 percent shooting).
What makes the Bucks so dangerous is their ability to score at the rim with Antetokounmpo and if defenses collapse on him, he kicks it out to a multitude of three-point threats in Lopez, Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdan, Tony Snell and Ersan Ilyasova. Sealing off the lane and closing out on the perimeter will be a tough, but imperative task if the Hornets want to sweep a tough back-to-back set with their playoff push in full force.
Game Note – Lopez is just 17 3PM away from breaking Channing Frye’s single-season NBA record for seven-footers (172 in 2009-10)… Marvin Williams is coming off a season-best 30-point outing, his highest-scoring performance since March of 2011… Milwaukee PG George Hill has missed six straight games (groin) and SG Sterling Brown is out for tonight’s game (wrist).
Classic Fact – Charlotte’s second all-time leader scorer Dell Curry also holds the Milwaukee Bucks’ single-season record for three-point percentage (47.6 percent in 1998-99). Craig Hodges was the previous record holder, shooting 46.6 percent from distance in 1987-88.