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Wizards face Bucks in home opener

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After coming off their first win in Orlando, the Wizards will be getting ready for their home opener against an up and coming Milwaukee Bucks team. Despite being the worst team in the NBA last year, will the Bucks really be a walk in the park?

Dec 6, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) shoots the ball over Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Knight (11) in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Bucks won 109-105 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Bur
Dec 6, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) shoots the ball over Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Knight (11) in the third quarter at Verizon Center. The Bucks won 109-105 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Bur
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks are in town tonight to face off against the Wizards in Washington's home opener. You ready for the season to start? We are! #LEGGGGO

When and Where

Tonight at 7 pm, in Verizon Center. The game will televised on CSN and and radiio will be 99.1 WNEF radio as usual.

Who’s injured?

Bradley Beal will be out tonight as expected. Everyone else is expected to be healthy enough to play.

Are they good?

It’s only been 2 games, but the Bucks have surprised some teams given how competitive they’ve looked. They took Charlotte to the brink in the season opener, forcing some heroics on the behalf of Kemba Walker for the Hornets, and were able to defeat the Delaware 87ers…er Philadelphia 76ers.

Brandon Knight has likely been the biggest bright spot as he has been stuffing the stat sheet averaging 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 10.5 assists. Given that there have been questions regarding whether he has the potential to be a longterm lead guard, his start to the season bodes well for quelling his doubters. Jabari Parker hasn’t made too much of an impact so far, but he is young and the Bucks are likely doing him a service playing him at the four, where I feel his strengths will be best utilized.

A player the Bucks seem really optimistic about is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Jason Kidd tried him out at point guard this preseason as an experiment and its still pending whether this will help him longterm. However, while he's not a huge impact player yet, his length, athleticism, and ripe age of 19 years old makes him an intriguing prospect and being able to handle the ball adds another tool to the arsenal. He could be a game-changer if he puts all this talent together, so it's important to keep a lookout for him.

Larry Sanders has not done much of anything on the offensive end, but his rim protection has been outstanding, as always, as opponents are shooting only 40.9% at the rim against him. The Bucks are still a very young and inexperienced team, however, and integrating all of these new young players will be a challenge for Jason Kidd, who even had difficulties integrating veterans into his offense in Brooklyn last year. Milwaukee, however, still will be tons of fun and not the laughingstock they were last year. They’re likely not in playoff contention, but they’re still a team on the rise that no one should underestimate when playing.

Keys to the Game

The biggest factor is probably John Wall’s performance against Knight. Along with his offensive improvement, Knight has shown the potential to be a pesky, though mistake-prone, defender. Wall should be able to handle him, but it definitely won’t be an easy task. Wall also needs to make sure that Knight does not go off offensively, as his defense has been occasionally very leaky to start the season.

Another key element to this game is the performance of Jabari Parker. While Parker hasn’t shown too much shooting prowess yet, Nene has shown that he sometimes struggles guarding stretch fours, and it’ll be important to keep Parker in check in that regard. Gortat’s  (and the whole team, for that matter) performance against Larry Sanders will also be vital. This is the case mostly on the offensive end trying to elude Sanders’ shot-blocking ability, but Sanders could also sneakily be a problem on the defensive end. Despite not showing himself to be an incredible offensive player, he has shown himself to be very adept at rolling to the rim and Gortat’s pick and roll defense will be crucial.

Finally, the Wizards offense must be clicking. They need to make crisp passes and quick decisions, because this Bucks team is LONG. One slightly off-target pass, and they will get their hands on the ball, disrupting the flow of the offense.

Prediction

I’m a bit nervous about this one, given how spry and competitive the Bucks have looked and how lethargic the Wizards have seemed at times. However,  this is a home game, and while the Wizards were not a good home team last year, it probably still feels good to come back to what is hopefully a roaring Verizon Center crowd. The Bucks will keep this close, but I expect the Wizards to pull out with the win.