It’s deja vu all over again. The Milwaukee Bucks are in our nation’s capital to take on the Washington Wizards, two days after taking down these same Wizards in a triple-double fest.
Where We’re At
Don’t look now, but the Bucks are on a three-game winning streak and are 10 games over .500. They remain 2.5 games back of the East-leading Philadelphia 76ers (who they also play on Wednesday, sans Joel Embiid), meaning that tonight is a major opportunity for Milwaukee to make up ground in the conference. Bucks’ forward Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to perform at the peak of his powers, fueled by that which fuels us all: smoothies.
7 years later, still loving those smoothies.— theScore (@theScore) March 14, 2021
( : @Bucks) pic.twitter.com/jTBy4Pz0gh https://t.co/0dnc4ENz0u
In our last episode of Bucks basketball, Milwaukee took a rare L on the boards, allowing Washington a plus-16 margin (57-41) in total rebounds. This disparity is often foisted upon opponents, and the possessions it provided to Washington made the last game closer than some Bucks fans felt it should have been. Tonight, the dynamic may change again as both Davis Bertans (hamstring) and Bradley Beal (knee) may suit up after missing Saturday’s contest, putting more pressure on Milwaukee’s still-developing defense.
Player(s) To Watch
I’m making an executive decision (read: nobody is going to either question me or care) with this section and nominate the duo of Donte DiVincenzo and Pat Connaughton. Neither player is particularly compelling on their own (despite the improved performance from both this season), but as of late they’ve been the fourth and fifth pieces in Milwaukee’s small-ball closing lineup, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday when the Bucks get switchy at the end of games. Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons discussed it recently on The Lowe Post, and neither of them expressed much confidence in the lineup...as of today. Personally, I think their caution is warranted but their conclusion is overly pessimistic.
We know all about the flaws in their games, but when you put their strengths together with the Bucks’ main three stars, the picture begins to come into focus. Both Donte and Pat are low-usage wings, which fits alongside Giannis and Khris’ ball-domination. Both are high-effort players; while Pat’s effort seems focused and intentional, Donte’s is innate and instinctive. Each player is going to give maximum #EnergyAndEffort and has started to demonstrate improved composure, though each is prone to getting out of position. They’re both shooting well from three (and fans are terrified of that dropping down) and are excellent rebounders for their position. Connaughton is strong enough to survive as a post defender against most opponents, while Donte has improved his decision-making enough to not panic when he becomes a ball handler. Overall, the Bucks succeed when Connaughton and DiVincenzo share the floor (+17.4 net rating in 273 minutes), and in the fourth quarter that performance holds up (+16.7 net rating in 112 minutes, over 40% of their shared playing time).
We all know that the Bucks need to be able to switch on defense competently when taking on a team that demands such coverage. Tonight’s contest against Washington, just like Saturday’s, should be another opportunity for this lineup to get valuable repetitions under their belt. It’s not like they’re able to practice, anyways!
Game 39: Against Washington, the Bucks will...
This poll is closed
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)
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