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Milwaukee vs. Washington: No Sorcery Needed To Defeat Bucks B-Team

A skeleton Bucks crew offered very little for even a mediocre opponent

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Washington Wizards v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

A very shorthanded Bucks squad saw their shooting woes arise again, falling 118-95 to the visiting Wizards on New Year’s Day. Joining the ill Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton in street clothes, Giannis Antetokounmpo was a late scratch due to knee soreness. Even without Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura (26 points) and the rest of the Wizards scored plenty to counter the piddly offense the Bucks could muster.

Difficulties protecting the rim and avoiding whistles formed the story for Milwaukee to start, alongside some typically cold shooting (6/23 overall and 3/14 from deep in the first twelve minutes). Brook Lopez and Serge Ibaka both ran into early foul trouble as Daniel Gafford and Kristaps Porzingis feasted inside 16 feet. A five-minute stretch with just one make from the field put the Bucks in a sizable hole as the first began winding down, and they trailed 34-17 after one.

Rui Hachimura was the next Wizard to start cooking, racking up 13 off the bench in the second quarter. At one point, the Bucks trailed by as many as 26 thanks to continued poor defense and shooting. They managed to dig out of it to an extent as halftime approached by taking advantage of some Washington turnovers, but with scarcely better shotmaking, the visitors still were up big going into the locker room, 68-50.

Though Washington’s scoring cooled considerably in the third, Milwaukee couldn’t create enough offense to make a dent in their lead. The teams combined to shoot 17/49 in the period, both only scoring 20 points. The Wizards’ edge remained the same at 88-70 through three.

Without any scoring muscle to speak of, the Bucks went pretty quietly in the fourth quarter. Jordan Nwora entered just past the midpoint, and with this being his first game action in over a week despite all the absences, that felt like throwing in the towel. The Wizards ended with nearly their biggest lead as Thanasis Antetokounmpo got in on the action too. You might want to avert you eyes at the final shooting numbers for Milwaukee: 34/96 from the field and 13/49 from three, percentages of 35.4% and 26.5%.

Milwaukee will hope for better help on Tuesday when they’ll face these same opponents again, also at Fiserv Forum.

Three Bucks

Bobby Portis led Milwaukee with 19, but little came easily. He primarily found points off jumpers, unable to break into Washington’s interior much at all. When Portis is the only legitimate shot creator on the court for long stretches, it’s likely to be a tough night for the Bucks, especially when he sits. He got the assignment on Kristaps Porzingis too, and even at Portis’ height, he couldn’t stop the giant Latvian from getting up shots. This was his 21st double-double on the season, though.

Brook Lopez ran into early foul trouble and didn’t offer much resistance inside. Picking up right where he left off after fouling out of Friday’s game, Lopez picked up two within the first four minutes. I’ve thought that lately he’s looked a bit mortal dealing with lesser opposing bigs like Naz Reid and Daniel Gafford, who had 17 points on 11 shots, nearly all in the restricted area. His uncharacteristic ineffectiveness inside last night did sink the Bucks a fair bit defensively, but more on that later. I’m not drawing sweeping conclusions about anyone when the Bucks’ three most important players are sitting, and when you can’t stay on the court it’s harder to get into an offensive flow, but eight points on 3/10 shooting was a touch disappointing.

Pat Connaughton continues to struggle from deep. After capping off a decent shooting stretch with a good showing in Boston, it looked like his jumper may have been rounding into form. However, he's since gone 2/15 while starting each game. He broke out of an 0/9 streak in the first quarter, but all but one of his next five shots drew iron.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Given the aforementioned foul trouble, Serge Ibaka was Milwaukee’s first sub in the first, getting his first playing time since December 17th. MarJon Beauchamp soon followed.
  • The rookie finished 4/12 from the field and sank two of his nine treys to finish with 11 points. A middling effort overall, but on the plus side, he only committed two personals.
  • Joe Ingles came back down to earth with a goose egg, missing all four of his attempts, though he did pick up six dimes as he spent a good chunk of the night initiating the “offense.”
  • Speaking of “initiators,” Jevon Carter dribbles entirely too much and isn’t a willing enough passer. Defensively he’s a total whiz, but these last couple games he’s hogged the ball a bit too much. Not that anyone else needed to be fed last night. His offensive limitations have been pretty glaring in recent weeks, as he waits too long to find open teammates to legitimately create looks.
  • I omitted this as the Stat That Stood Out in the rapid, mainly because the shooting was so bad and that stuck out like a sore thumb, but the interior defense I mentioned above? Close to none last night, as the Wizards outscored the Bucks in the paint by a 72-26 margin. Ouch!
  • For my fellow Badgers out there, Johnny Davis didn’t even play in this one, not even in garbage time! The only healthy Wizard not to appear, he’s seen just ten games and 50 minutes of action this season. I have no idea what Washington is doing... are they just punting that tenth pick already?
  • I don’t have too much more to add. The Bucks lacked their three best players, and even though the Wizards lacked their best player, you can’t draw many conclusions from this bastardized version of the Bucks. I know people want to try and do that because they’re frustrated, but fans really need to be patient with this team. The time we need to get a sense of what this team can be in 2023 is still being measured in weeks. There is still a LONG way to go; while losing stinks, we need to take the long view right now.

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