The four-way tie (as of Monday night) for 8th place in the legendary Eastern Conference sets the stage for tonight's showdown between the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards. Sporting matching .500 records (the Bucks have played two more games than the Wizards), both teams will look to build on encouraging wins as they seek to separate from the pack.
The Bucks will be without Jabari Parker for at least the next three games as he rehabs a mid-foot sprain. The Bucks announced the diagnosis after an MRI Monday morning. The panic meter remains deactivated for the moment, but we're monitoring the situation.
As for the Wizards, they may be missing their leading scorer in Bradley Beal, who has sat out Washington's last two games with a shoulder injury. Beal was considered questionable as of Monday night and is likely to be a game-time decision.
UPDATE: Bradley Beal has officially been ruled out for tonight's game, per the Wizards' official Twitter. In addition, guard O.J. Mayo is likely to make his season debut for Milwaukee. He's listed as probable.
Still riding high after Milwaukee's thrilling double-overtime victory against Cleveland Saturday night? Undoubtedly the Bucks' best win of the season, you may well be justified. The Bucks did as much as could be hoped against the Cavaliers, never letting the game get out of hand (in fact, they held a "comfortable" lead for a good chunk of the night) and withstanding a flurry of scoring from LeBron James and Co. late in regulation. Overtime was as close to a character examination as you get in professional basketball, and the Bucks held up under the pressure and proved their mettle, albeit not in the prettiest fashion. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come, and Milwaukee is now primed to break out.
If there's one thing to point to in explaining the win, it's the very thing that made Milwaukee's defense so lethal last season: forcing turnovers. The Cavs turned the ball over on over 16 percent of their possessions, while Milwaukee took great care of the ball with a turnover rate below 10 percent. Saturday's performance puts the Bucks back on the right track in that regard: in each of their previous two games the Bucks had undershot their season average. Milwaukee's defense is slowly (and I mean slowly) climbing out of the cellar, but they'll surely face a cap on effectiveness so long as their defensive rebounding rate remains...well, I'll just point out that the gap between them and #29 Atlanta is barely less than between Atlanta and #10 Toronto.
Milwaukee got a sizable shot in the arm from the return of Michael Carter-Williams, who made an impact on both ends and generally played solid, controlled basketball. Some mistakes down the stretch played a part in preventing Milwaukee from securing the win in regulation, but without him they might have been looking at a 48-minute loss instead. Carter-Williams played over 40 minutes and looks ready to roll for his usual minute load going forward. Milwaukee needs to see more of the guy that showed up Saturday night to keep the juice flowing -- the guy who picks his spots well, pressures the ball on defense, and makes impact plays that swing games.
Wizards Scouting Report
The Wizards look like a different team without Bradley Beal, who makes up half of the supposed "Best Backcourt in the NBA." The potential ludicrousness of that statement notwithstanding, Beal and teammate John Wall are undoubtedly a devastating pair when operating at full capacity. Wall has struggled with his scoring efficiency so far this season (49.4 TS%) but remains one of the best distributors in the league. The Wizards play at the NBA's second-fastest pace, leveraging their young athletes and slashing style.
And yet, they don't have a ton to show for it, ranking in the bottom-10 in both offensive and defensive rating. For Washington, the issue looks to be execution: they draw lots of free throws and shoot a decent number of threes, but they cough the ball up a ton and haven't bee able to contain opponents from scoring efficiently (25th in opponent eFG%).
There's definitely an expectation, and a reasonable one I'd warrant, that Washington will find its way soon, and they've got some surprising characters to thank. One is Otto Porter, who's gone from moderate draft bust to the team's third-leading scorer. Porter is hitting 50% of his shots overall this season, though hes still something of a mess from behind the three-point arc. Porter's been better, though still not great, on defense, and is starting to resemble the player the Wizards hoped they were getting with the 3rd pick in the 2013 draft. At the very least, he doesn't do this as much anymore.
Daily Fantasy Tip
Given the Bucks struggles on the glass, Marcin Gortat could be a solid play at a reasonable price. Gortat's rebounding numbers have ticked down a few points from his first two remarkably consistent seasons in D.C., but that may be a function of sample size and slightly diminished role.
Carter-Williams represents an interesting choice as well. His daily price has fallen a bit from early season, but he's still a reliable source of points from the non-traditional PG categories like blocks and rebounds. Wall's a reasonably good defender, but according to 82games.com, PG is the second-most productive position for Wizards opponents as measured by PER.
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|15/16 NBA Season|
|November 17, 2015|
|Verizon Center | Washington, D.C.|
|FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Michael Carter-Williams||PG||John Wall|
|Khris Middleton||SG||Garrett Temple|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SF||Otto Porter|
|Johnny O`Bryant||PF||Kris Humphries|
|Greg Monroe||C||Marcin Gortat|
|15/16 Advanced Stats|
|91.7 (30th)||Pace||101.5 (2nd)|
|104.3 (11th)||ORtg||101.4 (21st)|
|108.3 (27th)||DRtg||107.3 (23rd)|