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Wizards host league-leading Bucks Monday night
The Wizards (20-35) look to snap a two-game losing streak Monday night at 7:00 P.M., taking on the league-leading Bucks (48-8) at Capital One Arena. Washington will be coming off the second game of a back-to-back, having lost last night in Chicago, while Milwaukee is coming off a win against Philadelphia on Friday night.
Washington will be without Davis Bertans (sore right knee) and Thomas Bryant (right foot injury management) tonight against Milwaukee.
Capital One Arena | 7:00 P.M. | NBCSW | 1500 AM
Wizards: G – Ish Smith, G – Bradley Beal, F – Isaac Bonga, F – Rui Hachimura, C – Ian Mahinmi
Bucks: G – Eric Bledsoe, G – Wesley Matthews, F – Khris Middleton, F – Giannis Antetokounmpo, C – Robin Lopez
Wizards: Davis Bertans (sore right knee – out), Thomas Bryant (right foot injury management – out), John Wall (left Achilles rehab – out)
Bucks: Kyle Korver (back soreness – out), Brook Lopez (back soreness – out)
Beal coming off career performance
Sunday night in Chicago, Bradley Beal put on the most prolific scoring performance of his career, totaling a career-high 53 points on 15-27 from the field and 18-20 from the free throw line. Beal became just the 10th player in league history to hit at least five 3-pointers and 18 free throws in a 50-point performance. Beal has now scored 25-plus points in 14 straight games, dating back to January 20, tying Walt Bellamy for the second-longest streak in franchise history. Bellamy also owns the longest streak in franchise history (17 games).
This season, Beal has consistently brought it against the best teams in the Eastern Conference, averaging 34.0 points per game in eight games against the East’s top six (Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston, Miami, Philadelphia and Indiana). In his last game against the Bucks, Beal totaled 47 points and six assists.
Wizards struggling to start the second half
Despite Beal’s prolific scoring run, the Wizards are off to a slow start to the second half of the season. After closing the first half winning five of seven games, Washington has lost consecutive games to the Cavaliers and Bulls, both of whom rank below the Wizards in the Eastern Conference standings. Against the Cavaliers, the Wizards’ defense showed up, but the team struggled to make shots. Sunday versus the Bulls, Beal’s 53 points led an offense that got back on track, but the defense gave up 126 points to a team averaging 106.4 per game. Against Milwaukee, owners of the NBA’s best record, Washington will have to excel on both ends of the court.
After the loss to Chicago, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks said the struggles are not a matter of shot-making, rotations or execution – they are a matter of toughness and effort. Beal agreed.
“Coach is absolutely right, last two games we didn't show any resistance on the defensive end, none of us,” Beal said after the loss to the Bulls. “It's coming down to how bad we really want to make this push. We have to look at ourselves individually, starting with myself and everyone else following suit, but we got to be able to come off a break and win games.”
League-best Bucks come to Washington on a roll
The Bucks have started the second half with a pair of wins, including a 21-point victory over the Sixers on Friday night. Now 48-8 on the season and 4.5 games up the Lakers for the best record in the NBA, Milwaukee has been the class of the league all season. The Bucks lead the league in net rating (11.8) and defensive rating (101.6) and rank third in offensive rating (113.4). Reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo seems determined to earn the honor for a second consecutive year, leading the team in points (30.0), rebounds (13.6) and assists (5.8). While Antetokounmpo grabs the headlines, it’s Milwaukee’s defense around which the team’s success is built, holding opponents in check at every level. The Bucks allow only 38.8 paint points per game, the lowest in the league by 3.4 points per game and in their last eight games, Milwaukee has allowed their opponent to shoot better than 36.0% from 3-point range just once. If the Wizards are to beat the Bucks on Monday night, it will start with finding a way to generate some offense against the league’s most suffocating defensive unit.