Sometimes it’s not about how you finish, it’s about how you start.
The Wizards opened Tuesday’s 107-104 win over the Bucks with a 26-5 run to take a 21 point lead less than seven minutes into the game. Washington was about as good as a team could be during that stretch. It was a marvelous sight for Wizards fans, albeit a fleeting one.
After that, things got difficult. Washington’s shooting cooled off and the Bucks started to piece things together as their second unit entered the game. Jabari Parker scored 14 first-half points to get Milwaukee back to the point where the deficit was manageable going into halftime.
The Wizards helped the Bucks’ comeback in the second half as Tomas Satoransky got into early foul trouble and the team struggled to find their offensive flow without him on the floor. Milwaukee was able to make it a one-possession game by midway through the third quarter.
Washington didn’t put together a big run in response to Milwaukee’s comeback, but they didn’t let the Bucks get any more momentum. Even though the Wizards never led by more than six points over the final 18 minutes, they never allowed the Bucks to take the lead. Whenever the Bucks made a big shot, the Wizards responded with one of their own or came up with a big stop to keep the Bucks’ crowd from getting into it. Finally, Bradley Beal’s 3-pointer with under a minute left gave the Wizards just enough breathing room to escape with a key win over a team they could see again in April.
Washington takes hold of their playoff destiny
The Wizards’ back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and Milwaukee may very well put them in the driver’s seat to host a first round playoff series. Thanks to both wins, neither the 76ers or the Bucks will have a head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington.
The next tiebreaker is each team’s record within the conference. Washington now has a 2.5 game lead over Philadelphia and a three game lead over Milwaukee in those standings. The Wizards still have plenty of tough games left on the schedule, so these two wins could be deciding factors when it’s time to sort out the final playoff picture.
Washington overthinks it with Satoransky’s foul trouble
Things got complicated when Tomas Satoransky picked up his fourth foul less than four minutes into the third quarter. Considering how important he is to the team with Wall out, it made sense to take him out for a little bit to avoid putting him in a position where he could foul out before crunch time.
But when we say “a little bit” we don’t mean over 16 minutes in the second half.
Sorry, Sato with 8:09 left in the 3Q. Returns with 3:37 left in the 4Q.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) February 28, 2018
He had four fouls. That's a long rest for that.
The coaching staff effectively fouled Satoransky out before the refs could by keeping him out for so long. The whole point of taking someone out of the game who is in foul trouble is so that they can get back in before there’s less than four minutes left in the game. If they had just left him out there, he probably would have needed more than 3:37 to foul out.
During the 16 minute stretch when Satoransky was off the floor, the Wizards needed 30 shots to score 29 points and had nearly as many turnovers (5) as assists (7). Thankfully, the Wizards were able to force eight turnovers and hold the Bucks to just 32 points on the other end during that stretch, but Washington can’t count on their defense to bail them out in those situations.
- Otto Porter finished with more shot attempts than Giannis Antetokounmpo. You read that correctly.
- Otto Porter went down hard on his arm after a drive on the rim late in the game. He played through it, but it will be something to keep an eye on in the coming days and weeks to see if it affects his performance.
- Beal’s big shot late to help seal the win will be the shot people remember, but Kelly Oubre’s big dunk on John Henson was also critical in keeping Milwaukee at bay.
Next up: The Wizards head back home to host the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at 8 p.m.