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Bucks vs. Wizards Preview | Washington looks to guarantee first winning season since 07/08

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Season
(15-64, 5-34 away)
(41-38, 20-19 home)
April 12, 2014
Verizon Center | Washington, D.C.
6:00 CT
FS Wisconsin Alt No Local TV! | 1250 WSSP
Probable Starters
Brandon Knight PG John Wall
Ramon Sessions SG Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton SF Trevor Ariza
Jeff Adrien PF Trevor Booker
Zaza Pachulia C Marcin Gortat
2013/14 Advanced Stats
91.8 (23rd) Pace 93.2 (17th)
102.9 (26th) ORtg 105.5 (20th)
111.6 (30th) DRtg 104.7 (9th)

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

Seeing as the Bucks won an NBA game last night, I'm legally obligated to start this preview the way we always start previews after a Bucks win:

OK, glad we got that out of the way.

The Wizards sit sixth in the East and have a chance at locking up their first winning record in six years tonight, which shouldn't be too complicated given everything you already know about the Bucks. After losing back-to-back home games against the Bulls and Bobcats, the Wizards were last seen taking care of the Magic 96-86 last night in Orlando, giving them a one-game lead over 7th placed Charlotte and moving them to within two games of the fifth seeded Nets. So yeah, they really don't want to lose this game.

Defense Department. For all their young offensive firepower, the Wiz are actually a defense-first team: they rank 9th in points allowed per possession while ranking only 20th offensively, leaning heavily on their ability to force turnovers (2nd) while ranking in the league's top ten in defensive rebounding as well. They've also the only team in the league with a better winning percentage on the road, having gone 20-19 at the Verizon Center and 21-19 away from home.

Wildcat duel. Brandon Knight has toiled in John Wall's Kentucky since he inherited his point guard position at Kentucky in 2010, so you could tell it was a big deal for him to lead the Bucks to an overtime win the last time the Bucks and Wizards tussled in DC.

An encore won't be easy, though. With his max contract due to kick in this summer, Wall has finally put it all together: strong numbers (19.6 ppg/8.7 apg, 19.6 PER), good health and success on the court. Knight is of course making progress as well, posting career numbers across the board, including 19.5 ppg and 4.9 apg since the all-star break.

#Midrange. Did I mention Drew Gooden has the Wizards' second-highest PER (18.9) and a team-best 59.5% true shooting figure?

Countdown. Three games left.  We're almost there, people.

The Bucks' tragic number remains at 2 following their win last night over the Cavs, so any combination of two Bucks losses or Philly wins will lock up the best odds in the May 20 lottery. After tonight's game the Bucks head to Toronto on Monday and close the season at home against the Hawks on Wednesday, at which point the next major date on the calendar is May 20--the date of the lottery itself.

By then the current Bucks will have scattered for the summer, though the Bucks (and us fans) will all be keeping a close eye on Giannis Antetokounmpo's every move--wherever that might be. Charles Gardner reports:

"We want him to learn how to push through when you're feeling like you don't have anything in the tank. He's had some good stretches. And I've had conversations with him. It's important for him not to let everything be predicated on whether he's making shots.

"He's really effective in the open court and I think he can bring that kind of attack every day. He's a willing passer."

Interestingly, Drew is still hopeful of having Antetokounmpo with the Bucks' summer league squad in Vegas, despite Giannis suggesting back in February that he was interested in representing Greece at the U-20 European Championships--which are scheduled for around the same time (July 8-20) as summer league.

From a development perspective, there's little question that continued work with the Bucks' coaches before and during summer league is the most desired option, but balancing professional interests with national team obligations is never easy. That's not to say there isn't a compromise: if he were selected to the senior Greek national team, Giannis could skip the U-20s, play with the Bucks in Vegas and then have plenty of time before the Greeks head to Spain for the FIBA World Cup in late August.