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Wizards vs. Bucks Preview | John Wall and Brandon Knight renew acquaintances in Milwaukee

Rob Carr
2013/2014 NBA Season
(12-49, 7-25 home)
(32-29, 16-14 road)
March 8, 2014
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Washington, D.C.
8:00 CT
No Local TV  | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG John Wall
Nate Wolters SG Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton SF Trevor Ariza
Ersan Ilyasova PF Trevor Booker
Zaza Pachulia C Marcin Gortat
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.1 (24th) Pace 93.6 (17th)
101.4 (28th) ORtg 105.4 (18th)
110.3 (30th) DRtg 104.5 (9th)

On the WizardsBullets ForeverWashington Post Wizards InsiderTruth About ItD.C. Sports Bog

Wizards update. The Wizards had a six-game winning streak snapped on Monday against Memphis at home, but bounced back with a 104-91 win over the Jazz on Wednesday. Trevor Ariza scored 26 points on 14 shots while Bradley Beal added 22 and John Wall delivered a 14 point/10 assist double-double, as the Wizards worked to keep pace with the fourth-seeded Bulls (1.5 games up).

#Midrange. And oh by the way: a Drew Gooden sighting! After failing to latch on with a team following his amnestying last summer, the former Buck (who's still on Milwaukee's payroll BTW) is expecting a second 10-day contract from the Wiz after hitting 6/11 shots in his first three games. Our bud Mike Prada at Bullets Forever notes Gooden's impact against the Jazz:

Have to give credit where credit is due: the Wizards don't win that game without Drew Gooden. He hit a couple big shots in his second-quarter stint, then made a nice reverse layup and hit Beal on that Princeton-style backdoor cut to start the finishing surge. There was plenty of negative, particularly defensively, but those plays were critical.

Rise of Ariza. In previous years it would have been big news for Ariza to score an efficient 26 points--but not this year. The 28-year-old's 15.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 17.0 PER, .157 WS/48, 43.1% three point shooting and 60.3% true shooting marks are all career-bests, giving Randy Wittman a third perimeter scorer to take pressure off Wall and Beal.

The great Wall, the lesser Beal. The Wizards' willingness to hand Wall a max extension last summer necessarily raised some eyebrows: injuries, shooting troubles and turnover binges had kept Wall from entering the elite point guard company most expected when the Wiz selected him first overall in 2010, and there was no reason the Wiz had to sign him last summer given he would have only been a restricted free agent this summer. Still, Wall had looked very good after returning from injury in 12/13 and the move was a statement about the high expectations the Wizards continued to have in wall and a vote of confidence as well.

And it seems to have worked. Though he still turns it over by the bushel (3.4/game), Wall has been the engine of the Wizards' graduation from perennial disappointments to a team on pace to win 45 games. He scores (19.9 ppg), he creates (8.8 apg) and he's upped his game even further since making his all-star debut in New Orleans, posting 20.7 ppg and 10.1 apg on 58% true shooting in seven games since the break.

The Wizards are no doubt hoping Beal can make a similar leap.  Though his raw numbers are plenty impressive for a 20-year-old (16.9 ppg, 3.4 apg, 41.2% from three), he's an inefficient scorer (50.1% true shooting) whose advanced metrics remain rather pedestrian (14.3 PER, .070 WS/48). Interestingly, Beal has been excellent at the rim (64%) and behind the line, but he doesn't draw fouls (2.3 fta in 34 mpg) or get to the rim enough to compensate for all his jump shots.

Road warriors. The Wiz are the only Eastern team with a better record on the road (16-14) than at home (16-15), having won 13 of their last 19 away from home. And for all of their offensive firepower and prowess from deep (2nd in three point percentage), their success has mostly been a defensive phenomenon: they're 9th in the league in defensive efficiency and slightly below average offensively (18th). Their defensive success has largely rested on their ability to force turnovers (2nd) and cleared the defensive boards (3rd)

One for fighting. Ersan Ilyasova was suspended for Friday's game after rough-housing with Reggie Evans on Wednesday, which may or may not have inspired O.J. Mayo to take a similar approach to Greg Stiemsma in New Orleans last night. The NBA announced this afternoon that it would cost Mayo a one-game suspension, meaning more minutes for Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters, Ramon Sessions and Khris Middleton in the backcourt (and hopefully Giannis Antetokounmpo too).

Ilyasova presumably slots back into the starting power forward spot, condemning John Henson back to the bench after starting (and playing reasonably well) next to Zaza Pachulia in New Orleans. I'm actually OK with Ersan starting if only because a) he'll whine less and b) maybe he'll start playing well enough to be worth than a second rounder this summer (OK, maybe that's optimistic). But don't let that obscure the fact that Henson should be playing more minutes than Pachulia (I mean, c'mon) and Jeff Adrien is playing better than anyone else on the team right now (scary, but...well, good on ya, Jeff).

The new guys. Speaking of Adrien: whoa. Coming off his first career 20/10 game last night in New Orleans, Adrien is putting up 15.4 ppg and 15.1 rpg per 36 minutes as a Buck, unsustainably terrific numbers for a 28-year-old guy who has always rebounded but never done...this.

The Bucks have been 6.4 pts/100 possessions better with him on the court, and his energy has regularly inspired a second unit that's also gotten big contributions from Ramon Sessions. Which is to say that Sessions isn't "this" good either--19.4 pts/36 minutes, 8.9 fta/36 and 65.5% true shooting--but Bucks fans are at least familiar with the kind of goodness he can bring off the bench in regular spurts.