Bucks look to blow out Hornets for fourth time this season

It won't take much for the rematch between the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets to be more compelling than the first three matchups.The teams will meet for the second time in three nights on T

Bucks look to blow out Hornets for fourth time this season

It won’t take much for the rematch between the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets to be more compelling than the first three matchups.

The teams will meet for the second time in three nights on Thursday, this time in Charlotte.

The Bucks won 123-85 on Tuesday night and that continued a trend in the season series; Milwaukee’s three victories against the Hornets have come by an average of 35 points per beatdown.

“When you have fun and play the game with energy and effort, the ball finds energy and the ball finds who needs to shoot the ball,” Bucks forward Bobby Portis said. “Getting back our style of play.”

The Bucks had a 23-2 run in the first half on the way to their most lopsided victory of the season Tuesday. Three of the team’s five biggest blowouts have come against Charlotte.

By game’s end, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks had scored 24 points in 24 minutes, Damian Lillard provided 23 points and Portis added 21 points.

“Obviously, their defense was good, but Damian Lillard was just great early,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “He got them going with the high pick-and-roll game. I thought that was the biggest factor.”

The Bucks, who have a three-game winning streak for the first time since Doc Rivers became coach, made 16 shots from 3-point range Tuesday. But the offense in transition set the tone.

“It all starts with our defense,” Antetokounmpo said. “The more aggressive we are defensively, the more we can get stops.”

The latest success might be related to the time off during the All-Star break.

“We had time during the break to think what this coaching staff and the team expects from us,” Antetokounmpo said.

The latest setback came at the end of a rather encouraging road trip for the Hornets; they went 2-2.

Maybe there was eventually some momentum created for the Hornets, who were held to 26 first-half points. They scored 23 in the third quarter and 36 in the fourth quarter, though catching up to Milwaukee didn’t seem to be realistic.

“We struggled offensively but got better as the game went on,” Clifford said. “We’ve got to get off to a better start. Our game (is) ball movement, inside out and playing unselfish. “That’s when we’re going to be good. When we did that more in the second half, we had more success,” he added.

Even far from playoff contention, the Hornets haven’t been idle with player moves. On Wednesday, they signed free agent forward Aleksej Pokusevski.

Pokusevski has played in four NBA seasons, starting 65 of 150 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder. That includes 10 games with the Thunder this season. For his career, he is averaging 7.5 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Pokusevski, 22, might be a player who could help for the future after he’s in the Charlotte system.

The Hornets had a fuller roster Tuesday than in some recent games. Davis Bertans and Seth Curry were on the court after missing time with injuries.

Thursday’s outing will mark the first home game for the Hornets since the All-Star break. They have won their previous three home games.