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Bucks 119, Wizards 102: Oh well

The title pretty much sums up my feelings after this one.  Considering the Wizards were flying halfway across the country to play in their fourth game in five days against a team who hadn't lost at home all month, I didn't have high expectations.  After taking an 85-82 lead at the end of the third quarter, a remarkable feat considering the absence of both Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas, the Wizards, ran out of gas and were outscored 37-17 in the fourth quarter.  

It's pointless to waste time about ending 2006 on a down note.  Frankly, I was surprised the Wizards were even in it for three quarters.  Milwaukee is exactly the type of team that kills you if you have tired legs.  They don't have great personnel, but they push the ball at every opportunity and slowly wear you down.  Many basketball pundits have mentioned the Wizards and the Phoenix Suns in the same breath, but Milwaukee is really the better comparison.  The Bucks try to force you into long jumpers and then push on the rebounds, while the Wizards break you down with spectacular half-court execution.  Without Jamaal Magloire to slow them down, the Bucks have nobody that can't run the floor, and it was only a matter of time until they started hitting their shots.  

Only three Wizards really came to play today.  Caron Butler, playing in his hometown, was spectacular, finishing with 29 points and 13 rebounds.  He's become a better scorer by taking shots he can make, and rarely forces a bad shot.  I was also impressed with Jarvis Hayes, even though he had a couple horrible shots.  He gave the Wizards a lift in the starting lineup with 10 points, and played good defense on Michael Redd until the fourth quarter.  Finally, I was really impressed with Andray Blatche, who has finally learned to stop being a perimeter player.  He grabbed 8 rebounds, many of them being of the hustle variety, and hit on 4 of his 6 shots.  He's learning to play within himself, and hopefully Eddie Jordan will play him as a backup power forward instead of Michael Ruffin.

Something interesting to me throughout the game was Milwaukee's defense.  They played much of the game in a zone, and when they made their fourth quarter run, it was their zone defense that forced long jumpers that fueled their fast break.  The Wizards didn't know how to attack it, and their motion offense certainly doesn't have the same effect against a zone.  Since they don't have a true outside spot-up shooter, it'll be interesting to see if the Wizards will see more zone defenses in the future.  

So 2006 is over, and the Wizards are back in a tie for first place after the Magic demolished the Wade and Shaq-less Heat tonight.  When the Bucks come to Verizon on Wednesday, you should see a very different team.