In what was the 100th meeting between the two clubs, the Charlotte Hornets were able to outlast the Milwaukee Bucks, 98-95. As expected, the first game back from the nine-day All-Star Break was filled with sloppy play, but Cody Zeller and Kemba Walker showed plenty of energy in the big road win. Cody ended up with a new career-high in points at 23 points and also added 9 rebounds. Kemba had 14 points in the first quarter, and ended with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists.
In the previous meeting between these two, the Hornets struggled mightily with the size of Milwaukee's roster, and it showed again at times tonight. In an attempt to prevent those struggles, the Hornets went with a new-look starting five by moving Marvin Williams to the 3-spot, filled the backcourt with Walker and Nicolas Batum, while Frank Kaminsky and Zeller manned the frontcourt. That's right, Hornets' rookie, Kaminsky got his first NBA start, but was only able to contribute four points and six rebounds. It was clear early to Steve Clifford that Kaminsky was having a hard time guarding the Bucks second year man, Jabari Parker, who put up an impressive 23 points and 11 rebounds.
In addition to Parker, Michael Carter-Williams provided a spark off the bench and hit six of his seven field goal attempts, resulting in 14 points. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton were able to get 18 and 20.
The first half ended in a 52-52 tie, and also saw the return of Hornets' big man, Al Jefferson, who decided to shock us all with this up-and-under move that finished with a slam. He ended with 6 points and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes.
Ummmmm how about THIS off ball action to free up Big Al. Not to mention Al moving well to get open and finish! pic.twitter.com/5LcZdm8t78— Hive Talk Live (@HiveTalkLive) February 20, 2016
As for the second half, the Hornets got off to a shaky start. The team couldn't manage to get much going on offense, and the combination of Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker gave the Bucks opportunities to use their size as an advantage. The Bucks shot 11-23 from the field (47.8%) in the third quarter compared to the Hornets five makes total. However, the Hornets got to the line nine times in the quarter, which was five more than what they did in the entire first half. It led to only an eight point deficit heading into the fourth.
Off the bench, Jeremy Lamb had a huge night with 14 points, eight of which came in crucial moments of the second half. Lamb helped narrow a 13 point gap to three in the late third quarter and early fourth
Additionally, the Hornets fought their way back with defense by forcing 12 of the Bucks 22 turnovers in the second half and came up with key get stops when they mattered most. It's also hard not to mention Marvin Williams, who had 15 points with his two most important coming with 24 seconds left, which gave the Hornets a 3-point edge. In what was a sloppy game all around, it was refreshing to see the Hornets step up in the late stages of the game, and manage to take one from the Bucks. With this win, they now take a two to one lead in the season series with the final game taking place March 26th in Milwaukee.
As for the next Hornets game, the team will continue its current 5-game road-trip with a battle against the ailing Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at 3 PM ET. Newly acquired Courtney Lee is expected to make his Hornets debut.