The Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets had tense conclusions to their games Friday night.
Now it might be a matter of which team refocuses the best when they meet Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.
The Bucks dropped a 133-129 decision to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers. That result came despite Milwaukee star Giannis Antetokounmpo posting 40 points.
“To give up four 30-point quarters and 133 points total, that’s not going to be good enough,” Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said of the defense.
The Bucks had forward Khris Middleton in the lineup for the first time this season. Coming off offseason wrist surgery, Middleton provided 17 points and seven assists in 27 minutes.
Budenholzer said it’s unlikely Middleton will play the back half of the games on consecutive nights.
Charlotte nearly wasted a 22-point lead but held on for a 117-116 victory against the Washington Wizards to open a three-game homestand.
The Hornets won despite a nearly disastrous finishing stretch in which they went scoreless over the last 3:45. The Wizards had four possessions with chances to take the lead in the final minutes and couldn’t do it.
Charlotte scored just 10 fourth-quarter points, the fewest in a victory in franchise history.
Hornets guard Terry Rozier scored a team-high 25 points in his first game back after missing one contest because of an illness.
“Just my teammates and my coaches giving me ability to be me,” Rozier said of his scoring production. “That’s what I want to do every night, be myself.”
Charlotte’s P.J. Washington made a season-high five 3-pointers on Friday night and finished with 21 points.
The Hornets have won three consecutive home games. The excitement generated from those results is providing a lift that the players recognize.
“We’re going to need you all next game,” Rozier said of the fans.
The Hornets had a break in that they were off for three straight nights after a loss at Boston on Monday. For an injury-riddled team, playing on back-to-back nights is going to be a challenge.
“We’ve got to be able to get more basic NBA, old-school pick-and-roll,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “We’ve done a lot more with that. We don’t have those two-man relationships that we need to build that are so critical.”
The Hornets continue to get big production from Kelly Oubre Jr., who has been thrust into a more prominent role as a starter. He put up 22 points and seven rebounds against the Wizards.
“He has played big, big minutes,” Clifford said. “We need him to. He has become much more balanced. He’s getting the ball going to the basket.”
Middleton is bound to be a boost for the Bucks’ lineup in the long term even if he isn’t used Saturday night. The recovery took longer than expected, but he seems ready to contribute.
“Things happen sometimes in life where you’ve just got to adjust and adapt and deal with it,” Middleton said. “I’m just glad that I am back.”
This roster development eventually could help take some of the stress off Antetokounmpo, who has scored 30 or more points in six consecutive games. He has led Milwaukee in scoring in each of the past seven games.
–Field Level Media