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Feb 9, 2024 2:46 am

Bucks, Hornets face off seeking rare victory

doc rivers

The Milwaukee Bucks, who are trying to reverse a rough trend, will host a team in a worst stretch on Friday.

After losing five of their last six games, the Bucks will oppose the Charlotte Hornets, who have lost nine in a row.

“You go through this,” Milwaukee coach Doc Rivers said. “Hopefully, we’ll be better (Friday) and hopefully we get guys back.”

The Bucks lost 129-105 to the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night in the home debut for newly hired Rivers, so there is not much time to bounce back for the injury-riddled team. Milwaukee stars Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton didn’t play due to left ankle injuries.

“You want to win games and you want to be healthy so you can win games,” said Rivers, who took over just ahead of the 1-5 skid. “Sometimes you have to go through stuff to get stuff.”

The Bucks could receive a boost if Patrick Beverley is available to play a day after he was acquired in a trade with the 76ers. Milwaukee sent Cameron Payne and a 2027 second-round draft pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Beverley, a defensive specialist who is averaging 6.3 points per game this season.

The Hornets made a move, too. They traded sixth man P.J. Washington, who is averaging 13.6 points per game this season, to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Seth Curry, Grant Williams and a 2027 first-round pick. Curry and Williams both played high school ball in Charlotte.

Hornets forward Miles Bridges has become a productive player at high levels, particularly this week. He scored 41 and 45 points in the past two games, going a combined 11 of 21 from 3-point range.

But even with that, Charlotte has run into trouble on offense.

“The ball has got to hit the paint,” coach Steve Clifford said. “The thing that has changed, teams are helping (on defense) like we used to 20 years ago. People are giving up the 3. Right now, everyone is trying to protect the paint. You’ve got to make the adjustment, which means you’ve got to move the ball. People are standing there waiting and those are our bad possessions.”

During the current losing streak, the past two games have featured the second- and third-best point totals for Charlotte, 118 and 117.

The defense continues to be troublesome, though. In Charlotte’s 123-117 home loss to Toronto on Wednesday, the Raptors shot 53.1 percent from the floor, 51.5 percent (17 of 33) from 3-point range.

“We’ve been struggling a lot on defense lately,” Charlotte’s Cody Martin said.

The Hornets continue to be hindered by a long injury list. On the plus side, Martin could be rounding into form. He was out with an injury until late December, but he posted a season-high 19 points against the Raptors.

“It’s a grind,” Martin said. “It has been a long time, just trying to find my rhythm right now. Trying not to force stuff, and I just worry about getting a win.”

The Bucks won 130-99 at Charlotte on Nov. 17, with Lillard posting 27 points. The Friday game will be the first of three meetings between the teams across a three-week stretch.

The Bucks are 21-6 at home, while the Hornets are 5-19 on the road.

–Field Level Media

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