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Thursday, December 7, 2023

NBA: Damian Lillard leads 3-point barrage, Bucks beat Hornets

Damian Lillard Bucks NBA

Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard shoots between Charlotte Hornets guard Ish Smith, left, and center Nick Richards during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Damian Lillard scored 27 points, Malik Beasley added 20 and the Milwaukee Bucks overcame a 37-point effort from LaMelo Ball to beat the Charlotte Hornets 130-99 on Friday night and remain unbeaten in NBA In-Season Tournament play.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 16 points, nine assists and eight rebounds for the Bucks, who’ve won three straight. Beasley had six 3s and Lillard five as the Bucks went 22 of 45 from beyond the arc and outscored the Hornets 38-18 in the fourth quarter.

Milwaukee’s victory sets up a key showdown on Nov. 28 in Miami against the Heat, the only other undefeated team in East Group B in what might determine who’ll advance to the single-elimination knockout stage.

Both teams are 2-0 in tournament play.

Charlotte’s Miles Bridges looked strong in his first NBA action in 583 days, scoring 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes. Bridges missed all of last season and served a 10-game suspension to start this year for his role in a domestic violence incident in 2022.

Bridges received an ovation when he checked into the game in the first quarter and an even louder cheer when he sank his first pullup jumper, helping the Hornets build a 13-point first half lead.

But the Bucks were able to take a 2-point lead into the locker room at halftime and began to pull away in the third quarter behind a driving one-handed dunk by Lillard and a corner 3 from Beasley off a feed from Antetokounmpo. A few minutes later Lillard hit a 3 and Pat Connaughton drilled a 3 from corner and the lead was at 14.

The Hornets cut the lead to six early in the fourth on a Bridges’ and-one, but the Bucks erupted from there and steadily built a 33-point lead behind a barrage of 3s.

Ball came within a point of matching his career high.

He wore a blue bandage to cover up an “LF” tattoo just below his left ear.

The tattoo violates NBA rules against exposing commercial logos on players’ bodies. The “LF” initials are short for LaFrance, which is the point guard’s middle name and his new clothing brand.

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Bucks: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.

Hornets: Host the New York Knicks on Saturday night as part of a five-game homestand.

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