Hornets hold on late in win over defending NBA champ Bucks

Charlotte limited Milwaukee to just a dozen second-quarter points

Hornets center Mason Plumlee and Bucks forward Khris Middleton dive for a loose ball during Charlotte's home win Saturday. (Matt Kelley / AP Photo)

CHARLOTTE — In the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s home matchup against the defending NBA champions, the Hornets saw their 15-point lead cut to just four points as the Bucks surged back into the game on the back of Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The two-time league MVP was explosive in his 43-point, 12-rebound night, but Charlotte (21-19) refused to buckle under the pressure. 

With a four-point lead and 34.7 seconds on the clock, Terry Rozier stepped back and made a decisive 3-pointer that put the brakes on Milwaukee’s comeback hopes as the Hornets went on to notch a 114-106 win.

“The whole gym was staring at LaMelo, and I was just trying to create some confusion for the defense,” said Rozier, who led Charlotte with 28 points. “I slipped out on the pick and I was wide open. That’s something that we always work on, so I’m just glad that it was open and I got to knock down the shot.”

Miles Bridges scored 21 points with eight rebounds, while LaMelo Ball had 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. 

Kelly Oubre Jr. was not able to replicate his 9-for-14 3-point performance from Wednesday, shooting just 2 for 11 from deep, but he still posted an 18-point night.

Aside from the offense provided by Antetokounmpo, the Bucks (26-16) were reliant on Khris Middleton and Bobby Portis as the Milwaukee bench generated a combined five points. Middleton had 27 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists; Portis added 19 points and a team-high 13 rebounds.

Bridges said the Bucks’s success can be a blueprint for the Hornets.

“They’re a great example for all small-market teams,” Bridges said. “Giannis did a great job of staying loyal to his team. Not a lot of guys do that, so I tip my hat to him. Giannis and Middleton, they built something there. They’re a great example, so one day that’s what we’re striving to be.”

With Saturday’s victory, Charlotte has now won five of its last seven games and holds a 1.5-game lead over Washington (19-20) for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Milwaukee currently sits in third place, trailing the second-place Nets (24-13) by a half-game.

The Hornets will now have a day off before a rematch with Milwaukee at Spectrum Center Monday night at 7 p.m. 

“You just have to find a way against this group,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “I think it’s gonna be another close one on Monday, but we just have to keep battling — they bring out the best in us. We have to fight, scrap, claw here and figure out a way to get a win on Monday.”