When: November 30, 8:00 ET
Where: Fiserv Forum; Milwaukee, Wisconsin
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Let’s hope that by now the Charlotte Hornets have consumed all of their Thanksgiving leftovers. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan which, according to Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza, has the tendency to make people sleepy. The Hornets can’t afford any on-court drowsiness as they prepare to run into the bulldozer that is the Eastern Conference leading Milwaukee Bucks.
The Bucks loaded roster
The Bucks are led by reigning NBA MVP and First Team All-Defense selection Giannis Antetokounmpo, a destroyer of basketball worlds who is averaging over 30 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists per game. The Greek Freak’s powers are so otherworldly that he deserves to have a basketball-related temple erected in his honor next to the Parthenon.
Milwaukee’s roster is rounded out by point guard Eric Bledsoe, a streaky player whose dial is currently set to “hot”. Shooting guard Khris Middleton was an All Star last year but he’s currently making a gentle re-entry to the lineup after missing the last couple of weeks with a quad injury. Small forward Wesley Matthews is a respectable though unspectacular veteran who can knock down open three-pointers. Center Brook Lopez is an NBA oddity as a seven-footer who averages more three-point attempts per game (5.2) than rebounds per game (4.8), but his outside shooting allows for Antetokounmpo to dominate at the rim.
Milwakuee’s bench is nearly as loaded as its starting five. George Hill is the type of heady, effective veteran every team wishes it had to lead the second unit. Second-year guard Donte DiVincenzo is proving to be more than just a former March Madness headliner. Other veterans like Pat Connaughton, Ersan Ilyasova, Kyle Korver, and Robin Lopez are more than capable of providing 15-20 solid minutes per game.
How the Hornets can win
Winning this game will be about as hard as it gets for the Hornets this year. Milwaukee leads the NBA in scoring at 119 points per game while defensively they are holding their opponents to a 42.0 field goal percentage which is second lowest in the NBA. Solving the Bucks is the basketball equivalent of solving Greek’s national debt crisis (read: nearly impossible).
The path for an upset victory will come down to the Bucks going cold from the three-point line while the Hornets catching fire from downtown, both of which are unlikely but technically possible. Milwaukee averages the second most three-pointers attempted per game at 40.6 but their 33.9 percent from three ranks just 24th in the league. Milwaukee needs to have a high-volume, low-efficiency night from downtown in order for Charlotte to pull off the upset.
The Hornets, meanwhile, are going to need to get hot from three-point land. The good news is this can happen. PJ Washington has been a flamethrower from deep this year by hitting nearly 45 percent of this three-point attempts. Devonte’ Graham and Marvin Williams are both connecting on more than 40 percent of their attempts. Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges, and even Cody Zeller are each hitting over 35 percent of their three-pointers this year. Perhaps all five of them catch fire tonight.
Or maybe they don’t, and in the long run that’s just fine, too. Charlotte could simply get blown out tonight by one of the NBA’s elite teams and just chalk it up to a learning experience for a young roster, giving them a glimpse of the future they hope to build. Either way, it will be a delight to watch Giannis perform his basketball wizardry. Just sit back and enjoy the experience, regardless of the final score.