The Charlotte Hornets did it once.
The question facing the Hornets is, can they duplicate the things that allowed them to beat the visiting Milwaukee Bucks in the first matchup of back-to-back meetings?
The Bucks are back in Charlotte, N.C., for a rematch Monday night.
“You just have to find a way against this (Milwaukee) group,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “I think it’s going to be another close one on Monday, but we just have to be battling. They bring out the best in us.”
The Hornets displayed some of their best work in Saturday night’s 114-106 home victory, aided by Terry Rozier’s 28 points.
Granted, the Bucks have been short-handed, but maybe they didn’t handle the success of winning a night earlier at Brooklyn in the best way. Borrego said his team must not fall into any traps after that victory.
“I think the biggest thing heading into Monday night’s game is who handles this game better? Do they handle their loss better than we handle the win?” Borrego said. “Or will we have maturity about us and come out swinging again on Monday night with something to prove against the NBA champions? We still have a lot to prove. We have to be the hunter right now, and that’s the mentality going into Monday night.”
The Hornets were drubbed on Jan. 2 by the Phoenix Suns, another of the NBA’s top teams. So the performance against Milwaukee was encouraging for Charlotte.
The Bucks will look for a bounce-back and perhaps have more resources. They’ve been without Jrue Holiday, Grayson Allen and Pat Connaughton because of the NBA’s COVID protocol, and the latter two players could be eligible to return if they clear the hurdles necessary per league guidelines.
Either way, the Bucks probably will rely on Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 43 points Saturday night for his second-highest point total of the season.
“When your best player has that type of motor and that type of competitive nature, it puts a lot of pressure on other guys to bring it as well,” said Bucks acting coach Darvin Ham, who has been filling in while head coach Mike Budenholzer is in the protocol.
Ham, who pointed out that his squad didn’t react the best to Charlotte switching to a zone defense, said the Bucks had to re-charge emotionally after the game in Brooklyn and the travel involved.
“For those guys to come out and compete like they did all the way until the end to give us a chance to do something,” Ham said. “I’m just proud of our guys the way they competed.”
Borrego said he liked how the end-of-game scenarios played out, something that might have indicated growing maturity from his team.
“We had a little bit more edginess,” Hornets reserve Kelly Oubre Jr. said. “We followed the game plan.”
But there shouldn’t be complacency among the Hornets.
“There’s a lot of things that we can clean up,” Oubre said. “Being more disciplined and locked in for 48 minutes, so there’s obviously room for improvement, and Monday is another test for us.”
On Saturday night, Charlotte fell into an early 11-point hole before cranking up defensively.
“It was all defense,” Borrego said. “Great urgency; we were mixing up our coverages. It’s not perfect against (the Bucks), but our guys battled.”
–Field Level Media