Wizard update. Like Cleveland, the Wizards entered the season focused on breaking out of the lottery pack behind a promising core of youngsters, most prominently newly-minted max contract guy John Wall, promising sophomore Bradley Beal and third overall pick Otto Porter.
But also like Cleveland, they struggled at the start of the season, losing seven of their first nine games despite making a big win-now move by acquiring Marcin Gortat for a future first round pick. Injuries haven't helped either, as Porter has yet to play a minute due to a somewhat mysterious hip injury and Beal was recently shelved with a right leg/foot injury eerily similar to the one that cost him the final 6 weeks of last season.
However, unlike Cleveland the Wiz have actually started to play better basketball over the past couple week or so, winning four of five even with Beal out for at least two weeks. All of that starts with the 24-year-old Wall, who enters Wednesday night on a three-game tear that has seen him average 33 ppg on a sizzling 35/57 from the field (61%) and 26/30 from the foul line. He still turns it over plenty (3.3 to/g), but all that's acceptable from a guy averaging 19.5 ppg, 8.9 apg and 2.1 spg.
The scary part for the Bucks? Wall may not even be their toughest cover tonight. Gortat and Nene combined for 45 points on 30 shots against the Lakers on Monday, and they figure to be a ton up front for a Bucks team that has struggled in the trenches all season. Ersan Ilyasova would seem to be in particular trouble against the burly Nene, making it all the more critical that Ilyasova get his pick-and-pop game working. Plagued by injuries in recent years, the Brazilian has played in 12 of Washington's first 14 games so far and provided a much-needed dose of post scoring (15.8 ppg on 54% shooting) to balance out the perimeter threat offered by Beal and Wall.
The injury to Beal shouldn't hurt against a struggling team like the Bucks if Martell Webster shoots the way he did on Tuesday night. The Wizards should make it a point to run early and often against this team, but their perimeter defenders have to be careful not to give up open threes by gambling for steals or leaking out early off rebounds. The one thing you don't want to do is relive last night's near-disaster by getting these Milwaukee shooters into an early rhythm and be forced into a shoot-out on the road. But enough pessimism, Washington should be able to come out of this game with a road win led by another big performance from John Wall.
New floor, new results? Nearly a month after their preseason finale against Toronto turned into high-stakes game of slip-and-slide, the Bucks will finally have their much-hyped new floor ready for its regular season debut. But whether they can bring the game to match their sleek new court is an entirely different question, as the Bucks are on the verge of their first double-digit losing streak since a 15-game skid in 1996. The bright side (immortalized in photoshop by our friends at Bucksketball):
Sadly the 2014 draft is still seven months away, and in the meantime there's basketball to watch. And right now, that's been rather difficult for Bucks fans. Milwaukee ranks near the bottom of the league on both ends, which made Larry Drew's decision to shake up the starting lineup on Monday in Detroit rather understandable. Now if only it had worked. Two days after apologizing for his team's 96-72 home loss to Charlotte, Drew's team embarrassed him further with an even worse showing against Detroit, as the Bucks fell behind by 20 in the first quarter and trailed by as many as 34 en route to a 113-94 loss. Brandon Jennings made his former team pay with 15 points and 13 assists, while Brandon Knight struggled (6 turnovers, 4 assists) against his former team in his first start since opening night. Perhaps running out of better ideas, Drew will try again with the same lineup tonight, with Knight and O.J. Mayo in the back court and a frontline of Khris Middleton, Ilyasova and Zaza Pachulia.