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Bucks vs. Wizards Preview: Milwaukee squares off against surging Wizards

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Milwaukee hopes to rebound after back-to-back losses against Cleveland

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It was a tale of two back-to-backs for the Bucks, as they thumped the Chicago Bulls in both games last weekend but fell to the Cleveland Cavaliers two times in a row after Wednesday night’s loss, 113-102. The Wizards, meanwhile, have found a semblance of a groove after their lethargic start to the season and won on Wednesday night against the aforementioned Bulls, 107-97.

Bucks Update

The dispiriting but exciting overtime loss to Cleveland gave way to a more bland affair on Wednesday as Cleveland buried Milwaukee in the second half, shooting 56% from three on the night. In good news, Giannis (recently named the NBA’s true Unicorn by Bill Simmons) and Jabari are starting to crystallize into a bona fide star-studded duo. Giannis flung his way to 28 points on just seven shots, going 13-14 from the line. That put Giannis at 29 FT attempts in the past two games, his most over a two-game span in his career. Richard Jefferson even made it a point to complain during a halftime interview about the Cavs’ lack of calls compared to Giannis trips to the line. What a world. Frank and Eric discussed some of the Cavs’ interesting comments in regards to the Bucks after their series, and also previewed the Wizards’ games in today’s Locked on Bucks:

Jabari posted his most physically aggressive games of the season, bullying Cavs’ defenders to assault the rim at will. The two combined for 53% of the Bucks scoring over the previous two games.

The flipside of that success is decreased production from their role players, including a bench that’s ranked 9th in the league with 37.6 ppg. Mirza Teletovic was just 5-13 in the Cavs’ series, and even sprinkled in some unnatural-looking drives and interior pull-ups. Malcolm Brogdon continued to impress with 11 points and seven assists on Wednesday night, but it’s probably not a surprise the bench has fallen off just a bit without Michael Beasley. They’re averaging about five points less a game without Beas, but that figure (32.5) would be enough to drop them to 19th in the league.

The Bucks lost to the Wizards back on December 10th after coughing up a lead late. Jabari mustered only eight points in that game in 24 minutes, so the Bucks have to hope he’ll be a larger factor in tonight’s game.

Michael Beasley is still listed as TBD for tonight’s game.

Wizards Update

After people started approaching “panic button” status in the early going for Washington, they’ve actually been really solid. Since their 6-12 start, they’ve won seven out of their last ten, and moved squarely into the Eastern conference’s mediocre morass. They’re just 3-9 on the road though still this season, with wins against Chicago (okay), Orlando (ehhh) and Brooklyn (uh-oh). They’re currently one spot behind Milwaukee at tenth in the playoff picture, but remain only three games behind Boston in the third spot. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

The Wizards poor start has overshadowed a quietly emergent season for Otto Porter with 13.4 points, seven rebounds and a healthy 41% shooting from deep on 3.6 attempts and a very strong 62% true shooting. He injured his back in Wednesday night’s Bulls game though, so it’s still up in the air whether he’ll play. Bradley Beal has posted a bounceback year too after some lamenting over his gargantuan 5-year, $127 million dollar contract this summer. He’s at nearly 23 points a game, with a career high assist rate and nailing 40% of his threes on over seven attempts per game.

Of course there’s also John Wall, who still leads the team at 23.7 points per game, with 9.7 assists and a typically outrageous 45% assist rate. Milwaukee struggled with Kyrie’s ability to split the pick and roll and penetrate their trap-heavy scheme the last two games, and while Wall isn’t the finisher Kyrie is, he’s a superior passer. The Bucks rotations will have to be on point to prevent kickouts and rapid perimeter ball movement delivering open looks. Luckily for Milwaukee, Washington ranks 28th in the league on three-point attempts at 22.1 per game, a welcome respite after the Cavaliers’ elite propensity to fire from deep.

Washington’s has the league’s 11th best offensive rating on the year with a 105.4 rating, but they’ve juiced that up to 111.1 during their last ten games, good enough for sixth during that period. Milwaukee will hope to contain the Wizards’ recent offensive outbursts as they attempt to get back into their winning ways. At this point, almost every game against the Eastern conference cluster is somewhat important for eventual playoff jockeying.

Otto Porter is still TBD with back spasms, and he’ll likely be a game-time decision. Otherwise Ian Mahinmi is out for another 4-6 weeks after suffering more knee complications and will undergo platelet-rich plasma injections. Daniel House Jr. is out too.