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Milwaukee vs. Washington: Bucks Can’t Build Back Better Lead Against Wizards

The Bucks fall to kick off their stint on the road

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Washington Wizards Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks continued to struggle without 2/5 of their starting lineup, falling 101-94 against the Washington Wizards on the first leg of a lengthy roadtrip. A poor shooting first quarter led to just a two-point deficit after the initial period for Milwaukee. A 52-49 game at halftime was mostly due to 44% shooting from deep on both sides, and equal scoring across most of Milwaukee’s starters. Bud’s team battled back after allowing Washington to pull ahead in the third, but couldn’t quite stave off the Wizards scoring and overcome their gaffes late.

What we Learned

There isn’t a whole lot the Bucks can do inside defensively without Brook Lopez, at least thus far through the season. Tonight continued that troubling trend with the Wizards shooting 20-26 (76%) inside, a far cry from Milwaukee’s 65% defensive field goal percentage at the rim thus far this season. Without Lopez, any minutes sans Giannis are reliant upon either Portis, an incredidly iffy interior defender, or a supersmall lineup to try and protect the paint from being decimated. Even with Giannis out there, he remains a work in progress playing so many minutes as the defensive five. Thus far, the results have not been good. As per usual, there is little definitive to learn without two core starters, but expect Milwaukee to struggle on their road trip deterring teams from destroying the rim.

Three Pointers

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo has flashed his increased proclivity for a midrange jumper this season, and while I’m certainly not a “Giannis fixed his jumper” truther, I do appreciate his increased confidence in taking those types of shots in the regular season. His jumper near the end of the second quarter was the case in point of what I’d like to see from him this season. The curious thing from all that confidence? So far, he’s shooting the same as last year (38%) from the long midrange (14 feet to the 3-point line), albeit on higher volume. Up to this point, it’s been my eyes deceiving me in this regard, but I’ll be curious if the numbers improve as the year continues.
  • Jordan Nwora needs to showcase his defensive ability this season, and while his blocking acumen has been well chronicled, he hasn’t always been the most adroit on-ball dude. Tonight, he had a fairly solid possession about Bradley Beal with about 8:32 left in the second as he mirrored him around the perimeter and contested him even in the paint. Beal made the shot, but still. He did a solid job at the end of the third period isolated against Spencer Dinwiddie too. Credit to Nwora, and while I’m still not the biggest fan of his offensive game, I appreciate the defensive growth.
  • Bobby Portis tried to make his presence known as a starter in this game, but he struggled mightily, especially around the rim. Even at a positive plus-minus on the night, he couldnt’ take advantage of a smaller Washington frontcourt with his usual runners within the paint. Additionally, even his offensive rebounds weren’t turning into the usual easy buckets he capitalizes upon. With Brook Lopez out, he doesn’t offer the same sort of typical, reliable inside scoring threat nor a defensive presence in the paint. He needs to be a positive presence for this team going forward with their typical center, particularly while Khris Middleton remains out with COVID-19 concerns.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Bud made a change in the starting lineup, going large with Bobby Portis getting a chance to replace Thanasis Antetokounmpo. It was interesting to see Thanasis only get six minutes in this game after playing such a prominent role of late.
  • I don’t mind the Wizards alternate jersey, but I definitely thought they were the Kansas Jayhawks more than once during the broadcast.
  • Semi Ojeleye finally hit his first triple of the season for Milwaukee in the first quarter of the game.
  • I would like to shout out Lisa Byington for basically calling out Coach Budenholzer for resting all of Milwaukee’s frontline players at one time around the 4:00 minute mark of the third quarter. Questioning his substitution pattern 10 games in? She will fit in just fine around here.

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