This was as good as the Charlotte Hornets can probably get until they’re back at full strength.
The Hornets snuffed out NBA leading scorer Giannis Antetokounmpo as no other team has done this season. They got a spectacular first half from Kemba Walker (26 points) and a striking second half from rookie Malik Monk (25 points) in a 126-121 home victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
Antetokounmpo, a 6-11 forward with skills like a point guard, got in early foul trouble. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting from the field. Antetokounmpo’s previous low this season was 28 points.
Walker scored 20 in the first half. Monk finished with a career-high 25 points, 18 of those in the fourth quarter.
Three who mattered
Walker: He passed Larry Johnson for the franchise record of games of 20 or more points. This was his 193rd.
Marvin Williams: Played solid defense on Antetokounmpo, who was in foul trouble much of this game.
Kris Middleton: Bucks guard made nine of his first 15 shots, and finished with a career-high 42 points.
▪ Injured Hornets guard Nic Batum (torn ligament in his left elbow) told the Observer Wednesday morning he expects to be cleared to start practicing in about 10 days. Batum hopes to start playing in games in two to three weeks, which would be roughly the earliest the Hornets projected he’d be back.
▪ Hornets point guard Michael Carter-Williams scrimmaged with the G-League Greensboro Swarm Tuesday. Carter-Williams has yet to play this season, with soreness in both knees. It’s conceivable Carter-Williams could play during the Hornets’ four-game road trip, but unlikely.
▪ Entering Wednesday’s game, Hornets Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard were each top-10 in the NBA in net rating (team differential per 100 possessions when that player is on the court). The Hornets are 17.8+ when Walker plays (6th best) and 16.4+ with Howard on the floor (9th best).
▪ The Bucks moved former North Carolina big man John Henson into the starting lineup, sending Thon Maker to the bench. Howard had 22 rebounds in the previous game against the Bucks in Milwaukee.
▪ Clifford said pregame he doesn’t think it will be hard for the Hornets to readjust to playing with Batum once he returns. The Hornets play four of five at home starting Nov. 15, so there’d be plenty of opportunities to practice in that span.
▪ Henson is seventh in the NBA in blocked shots at 1.86 per game. Howard is tenth at 1.71.
▪ Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the game in the first half, feeling ill, and did not return.
▪ Howard led the Hornets in assists in the first half, with three.
A OFFENSE: Walker was spectacular in the first half, and Monk was red hot in the second half.
B+ DEFENSE: They contained the NBA’s leading scorer as no other team has this season.
A COACHING: A great night, when Clifford lost defensive stopper Kidd-Gilchrist early.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell