What: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Charlotte Hornets
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports South, NBA League Pass
The Milwaukee Bucks are currently in the playoffs, while the Charlotte Hornets want in. Tonight, they face off in the first of two match-ups in the final 9 games of the season. While Charlotte is realistically chasing the Miami Heat for the 8th seed, they technically could catch Milwaukee, who currently hold a four game lead over them. Its unlikely, but the Hornets need wins, and getting them at the expense of a team holding down a playoff seed will help.
The Hornets are playing pretty well of late, having won four of the past five games, and three straight at home. The Bucks have won five of the past eight, and were on a three game winning streak before losing to Chicago most recently.
While they lost Jabari Parker for the season, the return of Khris Middleton has given them a needed boost. While his season average is down from last season at 14.9 points a game, Middleton is shooting is 46 percent from the field, 44.3 percent from deep. The Bucks are 15-9 since he returned in February, and won six straight in early March. He provides them a legitimate outside threat, and given Charlotte’s poor defending of the 3-point line, he could be in a good night.
Above everything, however, the Bucks are run through Giannis Antetokounmpo. Averaging 23.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 5.3 assists, he’s certainly in the running for All NBA honors. In the only previous matchup against Charlotte this season, he totaled 31 points, 9 rebounds, and five assists. More than likely, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nicolas Batum will take turns defending him given that they can match his length.
Another strong start should help Charlotte, who jumped out to a 30-7 lead against Phoenix on Sunday. That’s unlikely to happen against the Bucks, but setting the tone early at home is important. Feeding Kemba Walker is the obvious first option, but more secondary help on offense is key as well. Against Phoenix, all five starters scored in double figures. Given that their bench hasn’t been reliable for much of the season, strong performances from all five starters could be enough.