The Milwaukee Bucks are licking their wounds from what was a winnable overtime game against the suddenly hot New Orleans Pelicans. The Bucks couldn’t get the rebounds or breaks late in overtime to pull it out, but they get a chance to start streaking again tonight facing a hot Washington Wizards team without John Wall.
A pair of overtime contests tested Milwaukee’s conditioning and mettle over the weekend. Friday’s heartwarming win over the top-seeded Toronto Raptors gave Milwaukee a post-ASB jolt that came crashing down to earth when Anthony Davis put the Pelicans over the top 123-121 on Sunday. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton again each scored 20+ points, but Giannis in particular struggled from the field shooting just 6-18. His jumper looked off and he even missed an alley-oop at the rim, a rarity given his hands’ incredible dexterity. One would hope the lack of a lockdown forward defender for the Wiz should help his chances. Markieff Morris is no AD after all.
Player to Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Giannis had 27 points and 20 rebounds in Milwaukee’s 104-95 victory over Washington back on January 15, 2018. Giannis and Bledsoe led the Bucks to an 11-0 run late in the fourth, both of whom have been integral to Milwaukee’s success in the clutch this season. Giannis has been superlative closing out games, nailing the winning jumper against Toronto, but looked frustrated all game against the Pelicans. If Milwaukee wants to clinch a top-four seed in the Playoffs, they’ll need Giannis to take over and beat one of the teams they’ll likely be grappling with down to the wire.
Since losing John Wall in late January, the Wizards are 9-3 with a net rating of 5.7 over that period. The high water marks were likely their victories over the Raptors and Cavaliers, and their team’s assist percentage has bumped up considerably to 71.1% as opposed to their season-long mark of 61.1%. They’re playing dangerously, even though Bradley Beal is averaging less points than his season average. Both Otto Porter Jr. and Tomas Satoransky have picked up the slack in the process too, upping their scoring averages. Mike Prada astutely points out the interesting paradox of the Wiz increasing their assist percentage without the passing wizardry of Wall.
Wiz ain’t better without Wall.— Mike Prada (@MikePradaSBN) February 26, 2018
But it is worth wondering why it took Wall’s injury for them to generate this much ball and player movement.
Player to Watch: Kelly Oubre Jr.
Kelly Oubre went off for 19 in Milwaukee’s last game with the Wiz, well above his season average of 11.9. He’s upped his 3-point percentage to 37.3% on 4.4 attempts per game, both by far career highs. His length and athleticism could offer a decent Giannis stopper with his lateral quickness, and I wonder if his minutes will line up with Giannis’ after he returns from his typical first quarter break. Milwaukee running him off the 3-point line will be necessary when Bradley Beal and Tomas Satoransky feed him the ball for spot ups.