The season series between Milwaukee and Charlotte, tied at 1-1, wraps up this weekend with an old fashioned home and home set. The first of two contests is at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, as both sides look to gain an edge in a potential tie breaker situation.
As with a lot of teams facing the Bucks for the first time in awhile, the Hornets will see Eric Bledsoe for the first time in a Milwaukee uniform. Bledsoe is coming off one his most explosive performances in Milwaukee colours, dropping 26 points in the Bucks impressive win over Cleveland Tuesday night. For Milwaukee, this could prove huge given Kemba Walker caused all sorts of issues for them last time these two teams met.
On November 2nd, Walker went 8-12 from the floor en route to 26 points in a 126-121 victory over the Bucks. Kemba was not the lone hot hand that night as the Hornets shot 54% from the field and 56% from deep. Fueling a 38 point last quarter was rookie Malik Monk, who scored 16 of Charlotte’s first 18 points in the fourth quarter, finishing with 25 overall for the game.
That night Giannis was quelled by foul trouble, but in game one of the series on October 23, nothing could stop the Greek Freak. In just the fourth game of the season, Giannis further pushed his name into MVP candidacy with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists in the Bucks 103-94 victory.
All in all, the Hornets come into this one in a bad way, losing 11 of their last 14 matchups. With 6 of those 11 losses coming by double digits, the Hornets, a team many considered to be in contention for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference will be desperate to turn things around, and quickly.
Despite their hot night against the Bucks ealier in the season, a big issue for the Hornets has been the outside shot. Only one regular rotation player is knocking down higher then 36% with Walker (33%) and Nic Batum (27%) in particular struggling thus far. Charlotte are not a team the Bucks should worry about from deep, with Bledsoe now in the fold to guard Walker, the Bucks should feel comfortable switching from position one to four.
Despite the Bucks holding the advantage across almost all statistical categories, one area the Hornets monster them in is rebounding. Charlotte on average, reel in 8.3 more rebounds per game, Dwight Howard leading the way with 12.5 per game. Howard has collected 16.5 rebounds per contest this season against the Bucks and again looms as a big road block in the way of a Milwaukee victory.
After slipping to an early 4-15 deficit against the Cavs, Jason Kidd called a timeout with 8:25 left in the first. Milwaukee then found their groove, scoring 78 points in the 26 minutes of basketball following that stoppage. It was a scintillating performance from the Bucks, pure passing, ferocious dunks and sweet shooting that led to a statement victory over red hot Cleveland, denying LeBron’s 39 point night.
Malcolm Brogdon’s importance to the second unit and Milwaukee in general was again at the forefront, with the cool as a cucumber sophomore scoring 16 of Milwaukee’s 27 bench points on a night the Bucks regained some depth. Matthew Dellavedova, Tony Snell and Jason Terry all were available for that game, Dellavedova earning the start somewhat surprisingly over Tony Snell who finished the game, knocking down a HUGE triple in the last minute. It remains to be seen how the starting lineup will look in this one.
Milwaukee will be desperate to avoid a let down after the high of that latest victory. Despite the Hornets poor form and record, don’t be fooled, they can get hot on any given night and a victory is far from assured.
Kane’s Keys to Victory:
- Bledose v Kemba: The Bucks contained Walker in the first meeting between these two but the All-Star guard got off the leash in the second matchup as mentioned above. On a team lacking offensive explosion, quelling Kemba will go along way to helping Milwaukee to victory. Bledsoe, averaging 2.0 steals per game, has had his hands in everything and a huge defensive night from him is vital.
- Put a body on Dwight: On paper, Milwaukee don’t seem to have a single answer to Howard on the glass. There is really no one with the attributes to stop him. It can however be done by committee. The Bucks will be hesitant to have Giannis banging defensively down low after getting in foul trouble last time out against Charlotte but it will take a group effort. Thon Maker and John Henson simply have to fight tooth and nail to box out Dwight and the other Bucks need to be prepared to fly in for rebounds.
- Returning/new crew finding their legs: With Snell and Dellavedova only combing for 34 minutes last time out, it will be interesting to see if their minute restriction will be lifted. Ahead of a back to back, veteran Jason Terry may also be called on to play some minutes. These three have been sorely missed over the last few weeks for a bench unit desperately needing help for Malcolm Brogdon. Newest Bucks, two-way contract signee Sean Kilpatrick, with a career average of 11 points per game could make his debut for some added offensive spark. These returning/new role players will be crucial to the Bucks hopes. If the second unit can put up points, Milwaukee should win.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus.