When the Charlotte Bobcats host the Bucks this evening (Bucks vs. Bobcats tickets can be found at the link,) there are two possible outcomes: the soon-to-be Hornets will win 2013-14’s third contest between these teams, or Milwaukee will string together consecutive wins — something the Bucks have failed to do with one-third of the season already gone. If Charlotte is to win, it will likely be in a convincing fashion, similar to the Bobcats’ 24- and 16-point wins in late November.
Currently in line for a playoff berth, this singular game holds little meaning for the Bobcats outside of keeping alive the possibility to complete a season sweep of an NBA cellar dweller. For the Bucks, however, tonight’s game means plenty. The race for the Association’s worst record – and therefore the most ping pong balls at the draft lottery – is as tight as ever with Milwaukee holding a slim lead on Utah in what appears to be a season-long showdown. In the long run, tonight’s game could mean the difference in percentage between the frontrunner and second-place finisher in next summer’s draft.
In the two teams’ first meeting on Nov. 23, Charlotte prevailed easily 96-72 behind a balanced effort that saw five players score in double-figures. Al Jefferson led the way with 19 points and seven rebounds, while only Khris Middleton (20) and John Henson (10) reached double-figures for Milwaukee. Six days later, Milwaukee traveled to Charlotte and again lost in similar fashion, this time falling 92-76 thanks to 23 points and 12 rebounds from Jefferson. In the two meetings with Charlotte this season, Milwaukee shot a combined 34.3 percent from the field.
Heading into Monday’s contest, the Bobcats sit at 13-15, good for the sixth spot in the lowly Eastern Conference. Since entering the league in 2004, Charlotte has just once playoff appearance (2009-10). The way things are trending this season, though, it appears the franchise will have an excellent opportunity to earn a second berth in its last season as the “Bobcats.”
Charlotte will be without two young pieces in Jeff Taylor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a fractured left hand on Dec. 3 and is expected to remain in a cast until at least Dec. 27. Taylor’s situation is much more grim, as the second-year wing was diagnosed with a severed right Achilles tendon on Saturday. He played a major role in filling the void left by Kidd-Gilchrist, averaging 8.1 points and 2.6 rebounds in seven games as the starting small forward. Taylor made headlines at the Las Vegas Summer League after he flashed an improved physique and all-around game. His season is certainly over, and he’ll work toward a 2014-15 return.
For Milwaukee, the injury list is about as slim as it’s been all season, as only FOUR players have officially been ruled out: Carlos Delfino, Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia and Ersan Ilyasova. The first three are dealing with longer-term injuries, while Ilyasova is currently “shut down” with a chronic ankle issue. John Henson is listed as a game-time call after injuring his knee Friday against Cleveland. He was expected to play Saturday – the team introduced him as a starter – but he never saw the court. It’s possible the Bucks could hold him out Monday with a three-day break looming.
What to Watch For:
– “The Rook”: Call him what you will, be it The Alphabet or Ante Up, but Giannis Antetokounmpo is a must-watch player any time he takes the court.With head coach Larry Drew seeing the same thing in Antetokounmpo’s recent minutes as a starter, the rookie is sure to continue seeing a steady allotment of playing time. That means in-game experience and development. It also means something to relish in the midst of what could be a blowout.
– Though he’ll be in street clothes, Zaza Pachulia returns to the city that selected him as an expansion draft choice back in 2004. The Bobcats plucked him from the Orlando Magic before shipping him to Milwaukee just days before the NBA Draft in exchange for the 45th overall pick. That pick, of course, turned into Bernard Robinson, a senior wing from the University of Michigan. Robinson averaged 4.5 points in 128 career NBA games before falling out of the league in 2007. So, score one for Milwaukee.
PG – Brandon Knight
SG – Giannis Antetkounmpo
SF – Caron Butler
PF – Khris Middleton
C – Miroslav Raduljica
PG – Kemba Walker
SG – Gerald Henderson
SF – Anthony Tolliver
PF – Josh McRoberts
C – Al Jefferson
Here are the
highlights lowlights from each of Charlotte and Milwaukee’s first two meetings, if you’re into that kind of stuff: