MILWAUKEE — Coming off a successful West Coast road trip and with the Christmas holiday right around the corner, Tuesday night’s date with the Charlotte Hornets had all the makings of a classic trap game for the Milwaukee Bucks.
And with the trap set, the Bucks fell right into it, losing to the Hornets, 108-101, in front of 14,653 at the Bradley Center.
“We didn’t have any rhythm offensively and every time we tried to make a run, we turned it over,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “We came out flat. We didn’t have that spark. Playing well, thinking about the holidays … it’s a trap game.”
Milwaukee’s downfall was largely due to an inability to protect the basketball. The Bucks shot 47.6 percent from the field but never got into a flow of the game thanks to 20 turnovers.
The Hornets converted those miscues into 20 points and, along with a 28-for-36 effort at the free throw line, more than made up for a 44 percent shooting night.
“They’re a good team,” said Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, whose team won a season-high four straight games. “They beat us up-and-down the floor, which we’ve been good at, but we are able to stay in there and make the plays we needed.”
Point guard Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 27 points. He scored 11 of those in the third quarter, leading a Hornets’ offense that scored 34 points on 11 of 17 shooting which turned a two-point halftime deficit into an eight-point lead heading into the fourth.
“We just got stops,” Walker said. “There was a point where both teams really didn’t score but we continued to get stops. We stuck with the game and at one point we were able to score. They made a small push, but we just maintained and we were able to finish the game off.”
Milwaukee shot well in the quarter, too, hitting 10 of 17 from the field and a pair of 3-pointers but again, turnovers killed the Bucks during that stretch; they coughed it up six times, leading to seven Hornets points, and only went to the free throw line four times, while Charlotte converted 10 of 12.
“That was huge,” said Charlotte forward Marvin Williams, who finished with 12 points. “We have a lot of guys that can attack the basket; Kemba is constantly attacking … We have a ton of guys that really attack and keep the pressure on the defense.”
Point guard Brandon Knight led Milwaukee with 34 points.
Knight hit four of his first seven shots for 10 points in the first quarter to give Milwaukee a 30-28 lead. The Hornets responded with a 9-0 run in the second and led 52-49, but Knight scored five points in the final 45 seconds to make it a 56-54 game at halftime.
Milwaukee went 3:38 without a point early in the fourth quarter, but cut the deficit to four in the final minute on a 3-pointer by Knight, his fifth of the night.
“They did play pretty well, especially Brandon,” Walker said. “He had 34. He was in the flow.”
The Bucks also got 12 points from forward Khris Middleton, 11 from swingman Giannis Antetokounmpo, who spent most of the night going up against Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and 10 from shooting guard Jared Dudley.
NOTES: Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova was available Tuesday for the first time since sustaining a nasal fracture and slight concussion in a game at Cleveland on Dec. 2. Coach Jason Kidd said Ilyasova looked good in practice and at the team’s morning shootaround. … Even with Ilyasova back, Kidd kept F Johnny O’Bryant in the starting lineup for the third consecutive game. … Hornets C Al Jefferson averaged 22.3 points (on 56.3 percent shooting) and 9.8 rebounds in his previous four games. … Bucks F Jabari Parker met with reporters for the first time since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 10 in Phoenix, and he said no date is set for surgery. The No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft averaged 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds while starting 25 games. … Charlotte shooting guard Lance Stephenson missed his third straight game with a pelvic strain and head coach Steve Clifford wasn’t sure if Stephenson would be ready for the Hornets’ Dec. 26 game at Oklahoma City. “He was starting to play better before he got hurt and get more comfortable,” Clifford said Tuesday. “He’s a good player and I hope the guys we have can play at the same level and we can incorporate him and become even better.”
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