Nicolas Batum got the start in place of Miles Bridges for the special occasion. James Borrego drew up a play to get him a decent look coming off a down screen, but he short armed the shot and drew front iron. That was pretty much the end of the Hornets struggles in the first quarter. Devonte’ Graham hit three 3-pointers, including a 4-point play. Malik Monk hit a corner three and scored a couple of what are becoming his trademark acrobatic layups. Willy Hernangomez found himself defending Giannis Antetokounmpo in isolation, moved his feet, and forced a push-off foul. All that good play resulted in a 31-24 lead for the Hornets after one quarter.
Terry Rozier ended a 5-0 Bucks run to start the second quarter with the Hornets second 4-point play of the game. The Hornets offense slowed down a touch after that, but they were able to maintain their defensive focus and keep the Bucks at bay. They led by as many as nine at a couple different points in the quarter but could never push their lead into double figures. The Bucks pulled as close as two points late in the half, but Malik Monk made sure the Hornets had momentum heading into the break. He canned a triple to put the Hornets up five and then volleyball spiked an Ersan Ilyasova layup attempt on the ensuing Bucks possession.
The Hornets took that five point lead into the half.
They narrowly managed to hold onto their lead throughout the third quarter. The Bucks pulled within a point or two on a number of occasions, but the Hornets always found timely baskets to give themselves slight bits of breathing room. An 10-3 run that included 3-pointers by Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham and a pair of layups from Malik Monk gave the Hornets an eight point lead with just under three minutes left in the third, which would prove to be the Hornets high water mark of the second half. The Bucks closed the quarter on a 12-4 run to tie the game up heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bucks finally took their first lead 17 seconds into the fourth quarter, which started an avalanche. They scored 15 of the first 20 points of the quarter to break open a double digit lead. The Hornets couldn’t get closer than six the rest of the way. The latest of those six-point deficits came solely from the hands of Malik Monk. Even as the game slipped away, Monk kept pouring in buckets, scoring 11 straight points for the Hornets at one point.
Monk finished with a career high 31 points off the bench to follow his 20 point performance on Monday. He even chipped in five boards and five assists to fill out the box score.
Devonte’ Graham finished with 19 points and showed signs of regaining his shooting form. Marvin Williams chipped in a quiet 18 points off the bench as well.
Even in the loss, the Hornets can take pride in how they played all game long. They never trailed in the first three quarters and played stellar basketball on both ends of the court against arguably the best team in the league. The Bucks just have too much talent.
The Hornets will fly back home and get a few days to rest before they take on the Knicks on Tuesday.