Jacob Raim - WashingtonWizards.com
The Wizards got their fourth straight win, all over teams in playoff position, defeating the Bucks in Milwaukee, 102-90. Bradley Beal had a career high 28 points in the win and three Wizards had double-doubles. Here are some thoughts on the game:
1. First Seven Minutes
This game looked like it was going to be a disaster. The Bucks could not miss, Ilyasova was grabbing every board in sight and within the blink of an eye (or seven minutes) the Wizards were down by 10 and the Bucks had already put 24 on the board. At that seven-minute mark the Bucks were 10/12 from the field. The Bucks offense regressed to the norm though, as they only scored eight points in the final five minutes of the quarter. Dalembert also picked up his second foul early in the quarter, which forced the already-thin Bucks front line (missing Larry Sanders) into going to the bench earlier than they would have liked. The Bucks only shoot 43 percent from the field as a team so this hot start was surprising, but the Wizards did a good job not letting things get too far out of hand and working their way back into the game before too long. The Bucks regressed in a big way in the second quarter, scoring only 15 points and shooting under 30 percent from the field.
2. Another Under 100
The Wizards defense has been unbelievable of late. They have now held nine straight opponents under 100 points. Since Wall returned, they allow the second fewest points per 100 possessions in the league over that time period, only the Spurs are better. Last night the team, and particularly John Wall, did an absolutely phenomenal job on Brandon Jennings, not allowing him to penetrate into the lane and forcing him to settle for shots he didn't want. He ended up scoring seven points on 3/17 shooting. Ilyasova and Ellis found some scoring success but that was really the extent of the Bucks positives on the offensive end. A lot of Ilyasova's damage was during that first quarter run as well. No Buck with at least six attempts at the hoop managed to shoot 50%.
3. Offensive Efficiency
The Wizards shooting percentage on the other hand was 56.8%, one of their best marks of the year. It was also the best FG% the Bucks have allowed all year. The Wizards accomplished this primarily through getting good looks in tight, scoring 50 of their 102 points in the paint. They also were moving the ball for the most of the night, as evidenced by the 29 assists on 42 baskets. Finally, in contrast to the Bucks, five Wizards with at least six FG attempts shot at least 50%. A nice contrast to say the least.
Three Wizards finished with double-doubles in the victory, with Nene's effort being his third straight. Nene (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Okafor (12 points, 10 rebounds) were the primary reasons the Wizards won the rebounding battle with the #7 ranked rebounding team in the league. Nene's contributions on the glass of late have been particularly impressive as he is not known for his rebounding, but rather his offensive play. His contributions on the glass helped keep the Bucks off the offensive boards later in the game which they excel at. His scoring presence was immense as well, shooting 10/13 from the field and doing it through his post up and mid-range game. He seemingly couldn't miss. Okafor's double-double was pretty standard for him and Wall's has been coming for a while now as he had eight or nine assists in the previous four games.
5. Turnover Differential
If somebody had told me the Wizards would lose the turnover battle by 10 to Milwaukee, I would have assumed they would have lost the game by double digits, not won it. The ball protection was sloppy and Wall was a big culprit, committing seven turnovers. Wall seemed to be playing too fast and trying to make too much happen at times, pushing the tempo even more so than it needed to be. The Bucks protected the ball, only committing precious few turnovers in the second half but really struggled to hit shots. Due to turnovers (and offensive rebound) the Bucks took 21 more shots than the Wizards, but still hit six fewer. This formula worked for one night, but will not most nights.
6. Bradley Beal's Magnificence
Beal was simply awesome in this game, almost certainly his best professional game. He worked so hard without the ball to find open looks, attacked the basket and shot the ball with total confidence. There was no hesitation at all. He was rewarded with a career high in points of 28. He did it on 10/17 shooting and 4/5 from three-point range. He did almost all of it within the frame work of the offense as well, rarely taking things one on one or taking bad shots. His game was so special, he became only the third teenager in the last 30 years to score at least 28 points in a game he did not start. The other two are Kobe Bryant and Ricky Davis.
7. Closing Out Halves
Earlier this season, the Wizards lost some painfully close games due to a failure to close teams out. Last night they outscored the Bucks by nine in the fourth quarter, giving them very few easy buckets down the stretch, working the clock and making free throws. They also closed the first half on a 17-5 run, taking a very close game and giving themselves a bit of a half time cushion to work with. That cushion would be enough as the Bucks would never hold a lead in the second half.