CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When all else failed, the Charlotte Hornets went back to what they do best: playing solid defense and crashing the boards.
Jamal Mashburn scored a career-playoff high 36 points and the Hornets held Ray Allen to just six points in the second half in a 102-92 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series Thursday night.
''He was the difference,'' Allen said of Mashburn. ''Every time we came back, he kept knocking us right back down. He really carried them and our attention to defensive detail was just not there.''
The Hornets, burned by Allen for a total of 54 points in two losses, clamped down on him Thursday and held him to 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting.
''Ray had killed us, and he was the only one we really trapped tonight,'' coach Paul Silas said. ''That took him out of his rhythm a little bit. We extended our defense and I think that's the reason we came away with the victory.''
The Hornets also capitalized on Allen's misses with an aggressive rebounding effort, beating the Bucks 57-35 on the boards while scoring 44 points in the paint.
That resembled what the Hornets did all season. Charlotte ranked fourth in the league in points allowed and seventh in rebounding but had seemingly abandoned what had worked all season in the first two playoff games against the Bucks.
''We went back to the basics,'' said P.J. Brown, who tied his career-playoff high with 16 rebounds. ''We limited their second-chance shots, which you have to do to beat them, and we played great defense. I don't think the Bucks want to play defense with us as much as they say they do. We can be pretty good at that.''
Milwaukee still has a 2-1 lead in the series, but the victory showed that the Hornets, who were listless in the first two games, aren't going down without a fight. Game 4 is Sunday in Charlotte.
The Hornets were much more aggressive from the start and didn't fall into a deep hole they way they did in the first two games.
''The energy was so much better and that was really the telling factor,'' guard Baron Davis said. ''We came out with a lot more intensity and we were aggressive from the jump. We have to be if we want to win this series.''
Mashburn, whose previous high in a playoff game was 29 points, finished 3-for-5 from 3-point range and hit consecutive turnaround jumpers to give the Hornets a 96-87 lead with 2:20 to play.
''The shots just fell,'' Mashburn said, ''I just felt good.''
But the Bucks came back, getting a 3-pointer from Tim Thomas that made it 96-90. Thomas had a chance to cut the lead when he stole the ball from Mashburn and was fouled attempting to dunk.
But Thomas missed both free throws, Charlotte got the rebound and made it 98-90 on a pair of free throws by Brown at the other end.
Allen finally hit a jumper to cut it to 98-92, but the Hornets answered with a slam dunk by Eddie Robinson that made it 100-92 with 42 seconds to play.
Glenn Robinson led Milwaukee with 23 points, Scott Williams had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Davis, who averaged 20.3 points in the first round of the playoffs but tailed off against Milwaukee and was held without a field goal in Game 2, got off to another slow start. He missed his first four shots and his first four free throws and had only two points at the half.
But Davis snapped out of his scoring slump near the end of the third quarter, scoring six of Charlotte's points in a 10-0 run. And he got more aggressive, lunging for a steal off Robinson and converting it into a fast-break two-handed dunk that ignited the Hornets.
''I tried to score early to get the monkey off my back and when I didn't, I got frustrated,'' Davis said. ''But my teammates helped me keep my focus and eventually I found a rhythm''
Charlotte slowly built a lead in the third quarter while Milwaukee's big men got into foul trouble, allowing the Hornets to dominate the boards.
A crucial sequence came with 5:33 to play in the third when Campbell and Williams were called for double fouls for shoving each other. It was Williams' fifth foul, sending him to the bench with Milwaukee trailing 62-60.
The Hornets crashed the boards in his absence, limiting Milwaukee's second chance shots while building a nine point lead.
''They manhandled us,'' Williams said. ''There was a lot of tough play going on and we couldn't get stops or crucial rebounds to stay in the game.''
NOTES: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip both sat courtside, with Waltrip wearing a personalized Hornets jersey and a headband. ... Allen, who went to high school in South Carolina, had his parents and friends in the stands. ... The Hornets went just 20-of-34 at the free throw line. ... Milwaukee made nine 3-pointers.
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