The Hornets end the first half of the season with back to back wins over the defending champions.
Terry Rozier scored 27 points and LaMelo Ball scored 23 points, including the go ahead bucket in the final seconds, as the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Milwaukee Bucks for the second time in a row, 103-99.
The Hornets fell behind early as the Bucks started the game pretty hot from the field. Nothing unusual there. But the Hornets eventually tightened the screws on defense and held the Bucks without a field goal for nearly six minutes. In that time, the Hornets scored sixteen straight points to flip a seven point deficit into a nine point lead. The Hornets held that nine point lead into the second quarter.
The Hornets took their turn to go cold to start the second quarter. A Mason Plumlee layup was the only Hornets basket in the first four and a half minutes of the quarter as the Bucks, who couldn’t shoot well themselves, slowly crawled back into the game and eventually took the lead back. The Bucks did a lot of their damage on the free throw line during the stretch. A Bucks timeout seemingly reset the offense of the two teams, who both finished the half with a relative offensive flurry. They combined to score 22 points in the final 2:44 to make the halftime score look rather routine with the Bucks holding a 48-47 lead.
LaMelo Ball woke up to start the second half with ten early points, inluding a 3-pointer he totally meant to bank in. The Hornets briefly lost Gordon Hayward for a spell during the quarter after he took a shot to the face from Bobby Portis swiping at a rebound. After some back and forth, the Hornets put the clamps on the Bucks again. The were held without a field goal for over four and a half minutes as the Hornets went on a 15-0 run to open up another double digit lead. The Bucks went zone for the final couple minutes of the quarter, and it took the Hornets out of their rhythm. That, combined, with Jordan Nwora getting hot, helped the Bucks pull within six before Jalen McDaniels extended the lead back to nine with a buzzer beater from the corner.
The offensive woes returned as the two teams combined to miss their first nine shots of the quarter. The Hornets struggled with turnovers as well against the Bucks zone to start. They eventually started generating wide open looks, but they struggled to knock them down. Meanwhile Khris Middleton was scoring the first nine points for the Bucks to start the quarter. The teams slogged their way to crunch time from there. Terry Rozier knocked down a couple of free throws and PJ Washington found Miles Bridges for a dunk to put the Hornets up four. Giannis Antetokounmpo was given a rather soft and-1 on the Bucks ensuing possession. He missed the free throw, but Wesley Matthews tapped in the rebound to tie the game.
The Hornets played it out, and LaMelo Ball made an extraordinary running floater to put the Hornets up two with 15.4 seconds to play. The Bucks tried to get Giannis going toward the basket, but Washington and Cody Martin walled him off and forced a bad pass that resulted in a Bucks turnover. Bridges hit two free throws to ice it.
The Hornets defended the Bucks extremely well, and they did a much better job of containing Giannis than they did in previous outings. They didn’t allow a single 30-point quarter and didn’t give up many easy looks from three.
The Hornets will try to keep this momentum up when they visit Philadelphia to face their bugaboo.