Bucks look to win season series vs. Hornets
The NBA-best Milwaukee Bucks have already finished their season series against Eastern Conference powers Toronto, Indiana and Boston.
They went 8-3 in those games and have two contests left against another contender, Philadelphia, having beaten the 76ers in their one meeting so far this season.
That success against the best in the East bodes well for a deep run in the playoffs, but the Bucks still have 17 games of regular-season business remaining, including a Saturday home matchup against the Charlotte Hornets, who are a potential first-round opponent.
The Bucks claimed a 3-1 series win over the Pacers with a 117-98 home win on Thursday that snapped their first two-game losing streak of the season.
"I think we always talk about the experiences from the regular season," Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer said in his postgame press conference.
"You can draw on them and reference back and hopefully we're building the right habits so that when we play any and all of those teams -- if it happens in the playoffs -- you're prepared for it, you feel confident and ready to go."
Milwaukee will be looking to win another season series on Saturday night.
The Bucks are 2-1 against Charlotte this season, including a 108-99 home victory on Jan. 25 when Milwaukee outscored the Hornets 32-12 in the fourth quarter. Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is averaging 26.3 points, 15.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists in those three games.
Every game is a must-win for the Hornets, who will be playing on a back-to-back after beating visiting Washington 112-111 on Friday night to put another game of distance between themselves and the Wizards in the playoff chase.
Charlotte had dropped nine of its previous 12 games to slip just outside the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
"To get a close win like this is big for our group," Charlotte coach James Borrego said Friday in his postgame press conference.
"They stuck with it, they kept battling. We were up, we were down. It was close there and we made plays down the stretch especially on the defensive end."
Veteran forward Marvin Williams poured in a season-high 30 points against the Wizards, and Charlotte got the defensive stop it needed when Washington guard Bradley Beal missed a drive in heavy traffic with three seconds remaining.
Milwaukee's starting lineup has been unchanging, save for minor injuries, but the Bucks have been adding depth pieces for their stretch run.
Veteran big man Pau Gasol, signed after he agreed to a contract buyout with the San Antonio Spurs late last week, has played in two games for Milwaukee. He snatched five rebounds in 11 minutes against Indiana.
And rookie guard Donte DiVincenzo, who hadn't played since New Year's Day because of a heel injury, returned Thursday night with five points and two boards in nine minutes.
"Donte getting in when he did was about what we planned," Budenholzer said.
"He's just got such a great competitive spirit. He plays the right way. He plays to win. He plays with a physicality. I think it's just great to have him out there, and I think he's teammates really appreciate the competitiveness he brings to the court."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 9, 2019