This certainly wasn’t the Charlotte Hornets’ “A” game, but it was a much-needed road victory.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Kris Middleton missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, allowing the Hornets to escape with a 98-95 victory at the Harris Bradley Center.
Marvin Williams scored in the lane with 24.9 seconds left to extend the Hornets’ lead to three. Middleton had cut the deficit to one seconds earlier, making two of three free throws off a foul by Jeremy Lamb.
With the Hornets’ primarily concerned about a 3-pointer, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo hit an uncontested dunk with 18.3 seconds left. With the Bucks trapping, rather than immediately fouling, they forced Nic Batum into a bad-pass turnover, giving up possesion with 17.5 seconds left.
Lamb never got possession of Batum’s delivery and the ball dribbled out of bounds.
Middleton missed a 17-foot jump shot on the ensuing possession, and Batum grabbed in the rebound, passing to Kemba Walker (25 points). He made both free throws with 5.6 seconds left to push the lead back to three.
Three who mattered
Giannis Antetokounmpo: His third-quarter dunk was something special.
Cody Zeller: It will be tough for Al Jefferson to win back the starting center job if Zeller (a career-high 23 points) keeps playing like he did Friday.
Walker: This was his team-leading 24th game of 20 or more points this season.
▪ It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Hornets will fill their 15th roster spot with Development League point guard Jorge Gutierrez. They needed a third point guard with some experience to replace Brian Roberts.
▪ Al Jefferson played for the first time in six weeks, after knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Coach Steve Clifford said pre-game the operation restored Jefferson’s agility. Jefferson said this is the best he’s felt in a year.
▪ Rookie Frank Kaminsky got his first NBA start 52 games into his career. This was matchup-specific: Clifford needed a bigger starting unit to counter the Bucks’ size. So Kaminsky started at power forward, Marvin Williams at small forward and Nic Batum at shooting guard.
▪ Kaminsky, who played college ball at Wisconsin and grew up in suburban Chicago, had numerous friends and family at this game.
▪ New Hornet Courtney Lee didn’t play Friday because he didn’t complete his physical Thursday in time to practice. He’ll practice in New York Saturday, then be ready to play Sunday versus the Brooklyn Nets.
▪ It was ’80s night at the Harris Bradley Center Friday, and that made for some interesting outfits in the stands.
▪ Clifford said pre-game the problems with spotty play on the road have mostly been about inconsistent defense.
▪ A ton of No. 44 Kaminsky jerseys – both Hornets and Wisconin dotted the stands.
C OFFENSE: Some really sloppy ballhandling that the Hornets can’t afford to make habitual this season.
B DEFENSE: They didn’t rebound as well as they needed to, but they got stops down the stretch.
C COACHING: The last game before the All-Star break and the first game after the break are often sloppy around the NBA.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell