Kemba Walker has continued his All Star form from last season, averaging 24 points and 6.5 assists for the Hornets, who are 4-3 and coming off an impressive win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Meanwhile, the addition of Dwight Howard has helped the team get their defensive identity back. Howard has been a monster on the boards, averaging 16.3 rebounds per game, including 4.7 offensive rebounds. The Hornets have also seen a significant improvement in the play of guard Jeremy Lamb. In the absence of Nicolas Batum, Lamb has stepped up to average over 17 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
The Bucks are also 4-3 for the season but are coming into this game without the luxury of rest. Milwaukee suffered a heavy defeat to Oklahoma on Tuesday night and are still yet to win in front of their home fans at the Bradley Center. Unsurprisingly, early MVP favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks with 28 points and eight rebounds against the Thunder, but the over-reliance on the Greek Freak is a cause for concern for Jason Kidd’s side. In fact, Antetokounmpo outscored the rest of Milwaukee’s starting lineup, which managed just 26 points, in the 110-91 defeat to the Thunder. The rest of the team will have to step up if the Bucks are to snap Charlotte’s two-game winning streak.
Three keys to the game
Who will stop Giannis? Giannis has elevated himself into the conversation for being one of the top five players in the game. While the Hornets have a solid defense, they don’t have anyone who can physically match up with him. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is one of the league’s better one-on-one defenders and is going to spend the majority of his time guarding the Bucks’ superstar. Good luck MKG, you’ll need it.
Rebounding – The Hornets are the second best rebounding team in the league with an average of 50.7 per game. Howard is also second personally, behind only Clippers center, DeAndre Jordan. The Bucks front court are going to have to be active on the boards to stop Howard and Charlotte from getting any second chance possessions.
Help your star – As has been pointed out, the over-reliance on Antetokounmpo has become a thorn in the Bucks’ side. The star forward was the only Milwaukee player to reach double figures in points against the Thunder, and both his fellow starters and the Bucks’ unit need to offer more support.
Matchup to watch
Dwight Howard vs Thon Maker – It’s a battle of young vs old in this matchup. Thon Maker has had his struggles this season while Howard has proven the doubters wrong with his stellar campaign. The battle of the boards will be key in this matchup, and Maker needs to start improving his – and his team’s – numbers in that category. The Bucks were out-rebounded 46-31 against the Thunder, and Maker’s 3.0 boards per game this season is nowhere near where it needs to be. Howard will have a field day unless the young Australian lifts his game.
Milwaukee Bucks projected starting lineup
PG – Malcolm Brogdon | SG – Tony Snell | SF – Khris Middleton | PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo | C – Thon Maker
Charlotte Hornets projected starting lineup
PG – Kemba Walker | SG – Jeremy Lamb | SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF – Marvin Williams | C – Dwight Howard
Antetokounmpo is the obvious choice here as he’s been putting up near 30 points on a nightly basis while also contributing steals and blocks on the defensive end. However, if you’re looking to go a different route, Walker and Howard are good choices. Walker has been regularly flirting with 30 points and eight assists while Howard’s rebounding has been simply dominant, which translates into good fantasy prospects.
This will be Milwaukee’s third game in four nights and the back end of a back-to-back. Couple that with Charlotte’s impressive form over the past week, and the Hornets at -3.0 bodes as a good betting play.
The Bucks are tired while Giannis’ shoulders are probably sore from carrying his team. Hornets win comfortably, 98-90.
Catch this one on league pass, Fox Sports Wisconsin and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off is at 7 pm ET at Spectrum Center.
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