We prefaced yesterday's game against the Chicago Bulls by asking whether the Bucks' defense was beyond hope at this point, and true to form, Milwaukee went out and showed all the same flaws they've become known for. The Bucks won, but they had to overcome 12 three-point baskets and 20 offensive rebounds by the Bulls. All told, Chicago put up an offensive rating of 110.5, the eighth time in the last ten games Milwaukee's opponents have hit that mark (which would, by the way, be tied with San Antonio for 3rd in the NBA).
But who cares, because Giannis Antetokounmpo was beasting! He did it in classic Giannis form, too: 13 of Giannis' points came off turnovers, 20 were in the paint, and 11 on fast breaks. And when Giannis goes off in a victory against a Central Division rival, you're not likely to find many complainers. Perhaps even more impressive was the ball control Milwaukee demonstrated, turning it over just five times on the night, by far the lowest total of the season. That's reflective of the overall improvement Milwaukee has made with taking care of the ball this season: after averaging about 14.5 miscues per game in November and December, the Bucks are down to just 11.5 in six January games. While many of Milwaukee's key metrics are worse or little changed from last year, turnover rate is a big plus: they've gone from 29th last season to 18th this year.
Despite a laundry list of ailments to some key players, Washington managed to take down the Chicago Bulls on Monday behind a balanced scoring attack and a barrage of three-pointers. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Wizards, led by John Wall's 17. But the Wiz don't exactly enter this game in great form, having lost three straight home games prior to the road win in Chicago. Those three losses are more easily excused considering they came against Miami, Cleveland, and Toronto, three of the top five teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race at the moment.
That's a pretty clear indication of where Washington is as a team right now. The Wizards have a losing record at home and are barely above .500 (12-11) against the East. Part of the trouble comes down to a tough schedule, rated as the second-hardest thus far this season according to Basketball-Reference.com. But Washington has probably offset some of that bad inherent luck with a little immediate luck of their own, sporting one of the better records in "close" games in the entire NBA (5-3 record in games decided by three points or fewer).
The Wiz will be missing some key players: Bradley Beal and Kris Humphries are out, while Nene is listed as questionable. Marcin Gortat is listed as a probable starter in Washington's media notes, but he's apparently dealing with an infection in his knee and can hardly be considered certain. Even Wall is apparently undergoing a precautionary MRI to address some chronic knee soreness, though he doesn't expect it to be a major issue.
Injury Update: Bradley Beal has been updated to a game-time decision but won't start, while Marcin Gortat is out. (via @JMichaelCSN)
Still, Milwaukee has yet to beat this team in two prior meetings this season, and playing the second game of a back-to-back puts them at an immediate disadvantage. Washington is still in the thick of the playoff hunt, sitting just two games behind the 8th-seeded Orlando Magic, and has plenty to play for.
On the Wizards: Bullets Forever
|2015/16 NBA Season|
|January 13, 2016|
|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|
|Jabari Parker||PF||Jared Dudley|
|Greg Monroe||C||Drew Gooden|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|93.8 (23rd)||Pace||97.6 (5th)|
|103.5 (24th)||ORtg||103.7 (21st)|
|109.9 (27th)||DRtg||106.4 (19th)|