MILWAUKEE — The Charlotte Hornets will try to do something the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers haven’t been able to do this season when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night at the Bradley Center.
Stop Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Milwaukee Bucks’ versatile playmaker has been a terror through the first week of the season, averaging a league-best 38.3 points through three games and setting a new career high his last time out, dropping 44 against the Blazers on Saturday night in a 113-111 victory.
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“He’s only getting better and stronger,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.
Perhaps that was a warning to the rest of the league, but Antetokounmpo has certainly taken his game to another level so far this season.
“The difference is I don’t have (anything) to lose,” Antetokounmpo said. “I play with that mentality. I don’t have (anything) to lose. I’m going to keep attacking, keep making plays, I’m going to turn the ball over, I’m going to miss shots, I’m going to airball shots, but at the end of the day I have nothing to lose. …
“I’m going to do whatever it takes for my team to get a win. You know what I’m saying? I don’t have (anything) to lose. I’m going to keep playing hard, keep being humble and keep working on my craft and hopefully, I can be one of the best in the league in the future.”
Making the task tougher for the Hornets is the absence of Michael-Kidd Gilchrst and Cody Zeller.
Kidd-Gilchrist would have likely seen significant time opposite Antetokounmpo but first returned to practice Saturday after a two-week absence following the death of his grandmother and isn’t expected to be ready Monday night.
“He’s good, he’s a worker,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “I really don’t have any idea when (he can play a significant role again), but he’s going to have to practice some for him to be ready to play.”
Zeller, meanwhile, sat out the Hornets’ game Friday against Atlanta and will probably be on the bench at Milwaukee, leaving Johnny O’Bryant to get extended minutes in his absence.
Zeller was a starter last season but moved to a reserve role this year after the Hornets acquired Dwight Howard. The 13-year veteran is averaging a double-double (15.0 points, 15.0 rebounds) through the first two games but there is still a bit of an adjustment period both for Howard and his teammates.
“Most (big) guys, when they catch the ball at the top (of the key) or in pick-and-roll, they’re looking to get off the 3,” Howard told the Charlotte Observer over the weekend. “Back when I first came in, it was look first inside-out. It’s an adjustment; I get it.
“I talked to some of the guys (Friday) night: ‘There are going to be points when I’m frustrated, there are going to be times when you’re frustrated.’ We’ve just got to stay patient with each other, understand it’s a process and to play together.”
Charlotte has had Milwaukee’s number recently, winning 11 of the last 14 meetings but has dropped two in a row to the Bucks.