There's not much time to celebrate last night's thriller against the Lakers as the Wizards fly to Milwaukee to face the lowly Bucks. A win tonight and the Wizards could possibly be the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, a loss, and all the optimism surrounding the team could quickly subside.
Where and when? Tip off is at 8 p.m. in Milwaukee.
Why should I care? Considering this is one of the worst teams in all of basketball, it's pretty important that the Wizards don't let up and fall into the classic "trap game." Washington has won four of their last five, and look to continue their ascension up the Eastern Conference standings with a victory tonight.
Are they good? No! And as Tom Ziller noted earlier this week, they have reluctantly been thrown into the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes despite eluding the tank for much of the past decade. They are currently on a 9-game losing streak but appear to be getting healthier with the return of both Brandon Knight (hamstring) and Ersan Ilyasova (ankle) to the starting lineup.
Who's out? Milwaukee will be without Carlos Delfino and their defensive anchor Larry Sanders for another 4 weeks or so after injuring his thumb in an alleged bar fight earlier this month. This probably isn't the start to the season Bucks fans were expecting out of him after signing a 4-year, $44 million extension this past offseason, as he's already had somewhat of a falling out with his new coach Larry Drew over playing time. Both Ekpe Udoh (sore right knee) and Nate Wolters (illness) are questionable for tonight's game.
What are they good at? Three-point shooting and..... that's it. They rank 29th in the league in offensive rating and 28th in defensive rating, and are led in scoring by OJ Mayo (15 points per game), who's three-point shooting percentage (46 percent) is probably the lone bright spot in an otherwise ruinous offense. They're currently ranked 10th in the league from downtown at a 38 percent clip, thanks to the plethora of shooters the team has at its' disposal. They did draft the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo (yes, I double-checked the spelling), who every-once-in-a-while dazzles the crowd with his abnormally long wing-span and freakish athleticism, and Nate Wolters, who all things considered has fared adequately as the replacement for the injured Knight, but this is largely a team lacking an identity and have struggled out of the gate adjusting to Larry Drew's new system.
What are they bad at? Everything. You'd think with all the shooters on the roster that this would be a team focused on allocating the bulk of their possessions finding looks along the perimeter, but it simply hasn't been the case through the first 13 games of the season. Over 30 percent of their attempts come from the mid-range area while just 24 percent come from beyond the arc per NBA.com's stats page. That's a recipe for failure and one of the many reasons why this team is second-to-last in offensive rating.
Larry Sanders has had struggles of his own to open the season before being sidelined with the injury, but his absence has still left a gaping hole down low defensively. They're unable to contest shots at the rim and rank dead-last in the league in defensive rebounds, which explains why they're only able to muster 10.2 fastbreak points per game (in comparison, Washington is second in the league with 19.1 per game).
Who's going to win? I know better than to chalk this up as a cake-walk for the Wizards. The injury to Beal shouldn't hurt against a struggling team like the Bucks if Martell Webster shoots the way he did on Tuesday night. The Wizards should make it a point to run early and often against this team, but their perimeter defenders have to be careful not to give up open threes by gambling for steals or leaking out early off rebounds. The one thing you don't want to do is relive last night's near-disaster by getting these Milwaukee shooters into an early rhythm and be forced into a shoot-out on the road. But enough pessimism, Washington should be able to come out of this game with a road win led by another big performance from John Wall.