Preview: Bucks vs. Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets remain well within range of home-court advantage for a first-round playoff series and could bolster their chances during an advantageous stretch in their schedule.
The Hornets will try to bounce back from a loss on their four-game trip by extending their recent road dominance against the scuffling Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
Charlotte (41-31) dropped one game behind fourth-place Boston and fifth-place Miami in the Eastern Conference with Friday’s 112-105 defeat to Detroit. The Hornets couldn’t overcome a 26-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and Kemba Walker was the only player to score more than 11 points with 29.
"We’ve just got to move on from it. We’ve got another game (Saturday)," center Al Jefferson said. "We are still where we want to be. We just have to play better. We have to have a better intensity to start the game. In that first half, we just didn’t have it."
Charlotte will next take on two teams that are well out of playoff contention in its next three games, with a home-and-home set against league-worst Philadelphia beginning Tuesday.
The Hornets, 17-5 in their last 22, will try to avoid a slip-up by sending Milwaukee (30-43) to a fifth consecutive defeat. The Bucks shot 41.7 percent in a 101-90 loss in Atlanta on Friday after topping 52.0 percent in each of their previous three games and had 16 assists with 16 turnovers.
"Guys are trying to do it themselves and sometimes that happens," coach Jason Kidd said. "Moving the ball, trusting one another. Tonight we just didn’t trust one another."
Charlotte, a winner in eight of 11 on the road, has prevailed in each of its last four visits to Milwaukee and claimed a 98-95 victory there Feb. 19. Walker scored 25 points and Cody Zeller had a career-high 23 while making nine of 12 shots.
Walker has shot a combined 55.6 percent in his last six games in Milwaukee and has totaled 52 points in the past two.
Charlotte has won two of the three overall meetings with the Bucks and will seek to claim the season series for the third straight time. Milwaukee will try to force a split while avoiding a tie of its season-high five consecutive losses Jan. 28-Feb. 5.
"(The Bucks) have a lot of length. They have a lot of young talent," Zeller said. "We’re going to have to come out with more energy than we did (against Detroit)."
The Bucks are averaging 90.0 points in their last three home games – 12.7 fewer than in their first 32 – and lost 94-85 to Utah on Sunday despite shooting 52.3 percent.
Khris Middleton is averaging 21.0 points against Charlotte this season but has shot worse than 40.0 percent in two of those games. Middleton, averaging 18.1 points, has a combined 19 in his past two games.