After a matchup that seemed tailor made to exploit the Milwaukee Bucks defensive weaknesses against the Houston Rockets, Giannis Antetokounmpo and company were able to emerge with a commanding 116-109 win. Tonight, they continue their road trip with a stop in the nation’s capitol.
The Houston win was impressive in plenty of facets, not the least of which being that Milwaukee shot just 29.6% from deep on only 27 attempts. Despite 3-point figures reminiscent of last year, the Bucks took what Houston allowed, slicing to the basket whenever possible en route to 70 points in the paint. With the Rockets fuel faltering down low (only 24 paint points) and the Bucks capitalizing in transition (19-2 fast break points), they started their road trip off on a sweet note. Washington have been none to jaw at the Bucks in the past, but given the fact their chemistry seems about as functional as the country’s two political parties at the moment, I doubt we’ll hear much pregame bulletin board material.
The injury report wasn’t ready at the time of publication, so just wanted to let folks know Giannis (right quad soreness/left hip contusion) and Ersan Ilyasova are both listed as probable. D.J. Wilson and Donte DiVincenzo are both doubtful, while Christian Wood is out with a right ankle sprain.
Player to Watch: Eric Bledsoe
Bledsoe’s been quieter of late offensively, but I’m not too surprised he’d go through ebbs and flows like that. Better that he fit in than over-impress himself upon the offense and fit out. What I’m more intrigued by is his defensive matchup tonight if he’s going against the plus-sized Tomas Satoransky. His height could offer a unique challenge to Bledsoe, who after the radical experiment against Harden, is making his case as the defensive pulse of this unit. We’ll see if he can exert the same effort and tamp down Satoransky or Beal if asked to match the Wizard’s leading scorer.
Fresh off splitting back-to-back contests against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wizards have course-corrected a bit after their early season floundering. The loss of John Wall is certainly a blow to their chances of even sneaking into the playoffs, but his mercurial play and personality could help this Wizards team gel in his absence. The bar isn’t high to sneak into the dance in the Eastern Conference, plus the Wizards have gone on strong stretches before where Beal was the focal point of the offense. Washington’s offense is near league average, but their bugaboo has been defense this season, ranking in the bottom five. They’re an incredibly weak defensive rebounding team (ranked 30th per Cleaning the Glass), so Giannis and Ersan could have some prime tip-in opportunities. I’m guessing they’ll match Trevor Ariza against Giannis, hoping his athleticism can contain the Bucks’ superstar off the bounce a bit. However, the Wiz do allow the 25th highest percentage of shots at the rim in the league. I think we all know how that could end.
Player to Watch: Bradley Beal
Beal’s always been an enjoyable multi-faceted shooting guard, even if he’s been stuck in that sh*t in Washington for many years now. He’s averaging career-highs in points, rebounds and assists per game, although his 3-point percentage has dipped to a career-low 34.7% on 7.2 attempts per contest. If Malcolm Brogdon is matched on him, I question whether he’ll be able to match up with him, but I would enjoy seeing Sterling Brown get a crack at it eventually.
Game 41: Against the Wizards, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)