NBA

Lillard: Bucks played like championship contenders against Hornets

By Sports Desk February 10, 2024

Damian Lillard said it was about time the Milwaukee Bucks played like championship contenders after scoring 26 points on his comeback in Friday's win over the Charlotte Hornets.

An ankle injury caused Lillard to miss back-to-back defeats against the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves this week, but he returned with a bang against the short-handed Hornets.

Lillard's 26-point haul led five Milwaukee players in double figures as they condemned Charlotte to a 10th straight defeat, with the All-Star guard also adding four rebounds and eight assists.

Having halted a three-game losing streak, the Bucks sit third in the Eastern Conference with a 34-19 record, and Lillard says a few home truths from head coach Doc Rivers led to their improvement.

"We were just more physical," Lillard said after Friday's game. "Doc just challenged us. He checked us on what we say we want to do versus what we've been doing. 

"To be a team that is considered a contender with what we want to accomplish… we've got to start acting like it."

Giannis Antetokounmpo was only needed for 24 minutes but still recorded 15 points and 15 rebounds, while Bobby Portis added 18 points and seven rebounds.

The Bucks also handed a debut to veteran guard Patrick Beverley, who they acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of Thursday's trade deadline.

He finished with six points and four assists in just 12 minutes on the court, also making a big impression with his willingness to call plays on the floor. 

"He brought energy, he brought edge and just experience," Lillard said of Beverley. "There were times where he just kind of directed some actions offensively and defensively in the huddle.

"He knows who he is, he knows what he brings to a team and he's not shy about it. You heard his voice the moment he walked in."

Beverley said of his approach: "The way I go about things, I'm not going to make everyone happy.

"I'm going to upset some people. I hold myself to a high standard and I expect everyone else to do the same.

"My approach is very strong until you get to know me. But once you get to know me you understand; 'the only thing he does is want to win.'"

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