After a pair of hard-earned victories over the Brooklyn Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks are flying high...and right towards a game against the red-hot Washington Wizards, who have turned a corner this season and are a staggering 13-3 in their last sixteen games (including an 8-game win streak in April).
Where We’re At
The Bucks are rounding into playoff form and all the little wrinkles are starting to get ironed out. Yes, they still get caught playing with their food and letting dudes like Kevin Porter Jr. go off for 50, but the postseason rotation is starting to come together, the defense is switching more (and more effectively) than ever, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is nearing the height of his powers. In Milwaukee’s recent two-game stretches against both Philadelphia and Brooklyn, the reigning MVP averaged 34.0 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists while shooting 52.7% from the field, 40.0%(!) from three, and 60.9% from the line. The knee injury that resulted in a lengthy absence and a subsequent ankle sprain that threatened to hinder his availability appear to be behind Giannis going forward, with only 7 games remaining in the regular season.
Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards are one of the hottest teams in the league, and come to visit in the hopes of solidifying their grasp on one of the Play-In Tournament spots. Head coach Scott Brooks was awarded the East’s Coach of the Month award for their performance in April, and Russell Westbrook has been dominant (averaging another triple-double on the year!) despite playing through a quad injury earlier in the season. Currently 10th in the East, Washington would have to beat both Indiana and the winner of the Boston/Charlotte Play-In game in order to sneak into the 8th seed, and Milwaukee would see them only if they can make up the 3.0 game lead that Philly has for the top seed in the East. Sure is nice to have the regular season tiebreaker over both the Sixers and Nets, isn’t it?
On the health side of things, the Bucks are expecting to be without Jeff Teague (abdominal strain) and two-way player Axel Toupane (oblique strain), while Washington is missing both Deni Avdija (leg fracture) and Thomas Bryant (torn ACL) for the season.
Player To Watch
Russ and Brad Beal get a lot of the attention, but many eyes in Washington are trained on Rui Hachimura, the Wizards’ sophomore sensation. He has already met (or exceeded) his rookie campaign on the stat sheet, and more and more is asserting himself as Washington’s third guy behind the aforementioned pair of star guards. In the previous two games against Milwaukee, Hachimura averaged 25.5 points on 0.556/0.500/1.000 shooting, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals, all while playing 37.5 minutes. He figures to be a secondary focal point on the scouting report right now, but he’s proven that he can be productive against the Bucks’ front line.
Game 66: Against Washington, 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)