Buzz City Nostalgia Not Enough, Hornets Stung in Season Opener

By Jake Auten. October 18, 2018. CHARLOTTE, NC – Throwback jerseys, Kemba Walker’s 41 points, and a small ball lineup never seen before, still wasn’t enough to top the Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee Bucks.

Kemba Walker’s 41 points were not enough to sustain a comeback from a 20-point first half deficit, with the retro-look Charlotte Hornets falling in a close one to the Milwaukee Bucks, 113-112.

All photo credits go to Getty Images & Charlotte Observer. 

Despite the electricity surrounding the city and the throwback look of the arena, Charlotte was seemingly in a massive mismatch from the opening tip. Milwaukee came out firing on all cylinders, making their first five shots, drilling seven three-points, and taking a decisive 36-23 lead at the end of the first quarter. Sloppy but back and forth, the Bucks and Hornets would trade shots and stabilize in the second, with Charlotte going into the halftime break trailing by 13.

Debuting head honcho James Borrego went drastic and came out with an altered Hornets small-ball lineup, featuring both Kemba Walker and acquired veteran Tony Parker in the backcourt, youngster Malik Monk and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the forward spots, and the French marksman Nicolas Batum playing the center position. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” 18 year-pro Tony Parker said, referring to the incredibly small lineup the Hornets ran with in the second half. “We tried to counter and go big and there were some possessions where big looked good,” said Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer. “But then I think we lost track of some shooters.” Yet another double-digit quarter scoring effort from Walker would trim the Bucks’ lead to just ten heading into the fourth with Charlotte trailing 93-83.

A Nick Batum block of “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo at the nine-minute mark in the 4th led to a Malik Monk tomahawk slam that was both a confidence boost and a spark of ignition for the Queen City faithful. Six consecutive points from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, with traded three-point buckets from Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Kemba Walker helped the Hornets piece together a 21-9 run to knot the game 104-104 with 5:41 left in regulation.

Blow for blow back and forth, a key shooting foul on Ersan Ilyasova sent Kemba Walker to the line, giving Charlotte their first lead of the ballgame, 112-111 with just a mere 36 seconds remaining. On the next Bucks possession, Antetokounmpo was fouled underneath by Spanish big man Willy Hernangomez, and Giannis’ two makes gave Milwaukee what would be the final points scored in the game. Inbounded with 0:23 to go, Walker’s total had now ballooned to a whopping 41 points, and the All-Star point guard went for 43, but was left empty-handed on a contested layup in the lane. Even with the offensive rebound claimed by Marvin Williams, a 26-foot prayer from Nic Batum didn’t fall, and for the first time this season, Charlotte tasted the agony of defeat.

When asked about the team’s effort in the closing minutes, Kemba Walker had nothing but positive things to take away from the squad’s comeback bid. “I mean, it’s encouraging. We could have easily folded, we could have easily lost that game by 20, but you know, we fought back, and that’s who we’re going to be. We have to be a really resilient team.”

Head coach James Borrego was asked his thoughts on the jolt received from the unique second unit. “I think we just found a group that wanted to play. They played with more urgency, they were fighting on the defensive end, and for us to be a good defensive team this season, we have to be prepared from the start, and the starting unit wasn’t prepared for this game, mentally or physically, to get us off to a great start.”

THE PLAY ACTION’S STAR OF THE NIGHT

Kemba Walker continues to find ways to break new ground inthe Charlotte Hornets record book. Scoring 41 points on 15-29 shooting, adding7 three-balls, and dishing out 4 assists, Kemba electrified the Buzz Citycrowd. Sometimes, statistics just speak for themselves.

Giannis Antetokounmpo could very well be a serious MVP candidate, and despite 5 fouls to go with 8 turnovers, The Greek Freak still almost managed a triple double, with a 25-18-8 stat line. Giannis can play all five positions and continues to show monstrous growth.

ON TO THE NEXT ONE

The Hornets kick off a 4-game road trip after the season opener, meeting former head coach Steve Clifford and the Orlando Magic at 7:00 EST Friday in the Amway Center.

Milwaukee begins a string of 3 games back home in Wisconsin, taking on the division rival Indiana Pacers for the first time at 8:30 EST Friday in the Bradley Center.

POSTGAME NOTES

Hornets legends from days gone by, including current team announcer Dell Curry, fan favorite Muggsy Bogues, Rex Chapman, and Kelly Tripucka, graced the hardwood floors of the Spectrum Center in a ceremony to commemorate 30 years of professional basketball in the Queen City.

Marvin Williams tied his career high total for 4 blocks in a game, his 208th as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, passing Al Jefferson for 10th place in the organization’s all-time blocks leaderboard.

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