Heading into the All-Star break, Milwaukee’s struggles since making a head-coaching change garnered a lot of headlines as the Bucks went 3-7 under Doc Rivers. Milwaukee has started the second half hot, though, with three consecutive wins – two on the road – and will look to keep that momentum in its third matchup with Charlotte in less than three weeks.
These two teams played on Tuesday, with Milwaukee cruising to a 38-point win. The Hornets have still won five of their last seven. Can they hang as double-digit underdogs Thursday night at Spectrum Center?
Here’s the betting preview for the matchup with a best bet.
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Damian Lillard: The eight-time NBA All-Star was held under 20 points in three of the final six games leading up to the All-Star Break but has come back on fire. In three games since the break, Lillard has scored 68 points and has shot 16-of-29 over the last two contests. Lillard flirted with a triple-double in all three games, averaging 22.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists in that stretch.
Brandon Miller: Charlotte is in full-on rebuild mode and Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, is a key piece of the Hornets’ future. The Alabama product is averaging 16.5 points per game. He started February (20 points per game this month) hot but has been held under 18 points in four straight games since the All-Star Break and is shooting just 24-of-62 from the field in that stretch.
The Bucks’ confidence is at an all-time high since Rivers was named the new head coach and Milwaukee should have no problem bullying Charlotte for the second time in three days and third time this month.
Milwaukee held Charlotte under 90 points in both meetings and the Hornets’ offense, which is No. 28 in scoring (107.7 points per game) and efficiency, hasn’t been able to buy a bucket. In the two matchups this month, the Bucks held the Hornets to just 35.6% shooting (57-of-160) from the field and just 26% (18-of-69) from 3-point range.
Those numbers reflect season-long struggles from Charlotte (No. 27 in shooting percentage and made field goals per game) and Milwaukee’s defense can take advantage. The Bucks have held opponents to 39.5% shooting over the last three games and rank 10th in the NBA in overall net ranking over the last 10 games.
Charlotte’s going to miss its shots, but the Hornets also haven’t been able to create second-chance opportunities, grabbing just 13 offensive rebounds in the last two meetings with Milwaukee. The Bucks are No. 2 in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game (34.9) and Charlotte is 24th in the NBA in second-chance points. Milwaukee’s defense sets the tone – take Charlotte to go under its team total.
Game odds update periodically and are subject to change.
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — College basketball is a billion-dollar industry that takes over the country in March. Millions of fans watch some of the best student athletes in the world go head-to-head for 40 minutes. But 40 minutes on the court are just the finished product, a fraction of the work that goes into it behind the scenes. The Milwaukee Panthers and Coach Bart Lundy let CBS 58 take a peek behind the curtain at a recent game.
Twenty minutes before tip-off, he stands in an empty locker room, waiting.
“Misery, yeah, it’s [the waiting] the worst. Absolute worst part of game day, right here,” Lundy said.
Coach Bart Lundy
He fills the time writing the final matchups and keys to the game on the whiteboard.
“It’s really a three-day prep for each team. I’ve kind of gone away from the ‘rah-rah’ speeches I gave as a young coach so if I give one now it’s effective,” said Lundy.
Instead, assistant coach Ben Walker gives the pre-game speech before this game.
“Don’t play with your food. Are you hungry? Yes sir. Well, let’s go eat then!”
The Panthers are favorites so the coaching staff is worried about a “trap game.” Their message to the team all week has been to stay locked in and not overlook their opponent. But Coach Lundy knows his team well.
After a sluggish workout he paces back and forth during starting lineups worried the message didn’t sink in as well as he wanted it to.
“Today is a great day to analyze that [how well the pregame talk sank in with the team]. We didn’t think the initial warmup was good and we were locked in even though they came in the locker room and said, ‘we’re locked in and ready to go’ and we came out in the game and we weren’t locked in. We weren’t ready to go,” Lundy said.
He’s right, at the first TV timeout the Panthers still haven’t scored.
Things improve from there. One by one the shots start falling and suddenly Milwaukee is up five heading back into the locker room for halftime.
“I feel like…we’re going to throw a knockout punch, that’s not how it’s going to work. We’re going to beat this team with singles,” said Lundy.
The message sinks in. The Panthers dominate the second half on the way to a 20-point win. In Bart’s office after the game, he told CBS 58’s Scott Grodsky he knew his halftime speech hit home.
“I thought at halftime, at halftime when we talked about you can’t hit a home run, it has to be play after play after play,” said Lundy. “I thought, just looking at them and their heads nodding. You can tell who is listening with their eyes, the body language of the team, whether they are really locked in. I thought they were locked into that and we came out and played we were locked in.”
Relationships behind the scenes are what drives success in college basketball. Bart learned that early when he became one of the youngest head coaches in the country more than 25 years ago. While his relationship with players has evolved, the core stays the same.
“I think in a lot of ways I’ve always been more of a player’s coach. Now maybe instead of being that young coach they relate maybe it’s more of a father-figure type relationship,” Lundy said.