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Wizards’ defense smothers Bucks late in 104-91 victory
Question of the Day
John Wall has maintained that the Wizards’ solution to their offensive woes will be to keep shooting. As for their defensive issues, sometimes, it takes a concerted effort to stand up and challenge their opponent.
Bradley Beal had 26 points to lead six players in double figures in scoring, and the Wizards forced 14 turnovers in the second half of a 104-91 victory over the hapless Milwaukee Bucks at Verizon Center.
Washington (42-38) clinched a winning record for the first time in six years, and it bolstered its case for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference with the victory. The Wizards have two games remaining – home on Monday against the Miami Heat, and Wednesday on the road against the Boston Celtics.
In earning the victory, the Wizards found an answer to one of their greatest problems in recent nights – their three-point shooting. One of the best three-point shooting teams in the league – Washington entered the night ranked fourth, having made 37.9 percent of such shots this season – the Wizards went a woeful 6-for-50 from beyond the three-point line over the last three games.
They made eight of 22 attempts on Saturday, or 36.4 percent, against a Milwaukee team that statistically had the worst three-point defense (38.2 percent) in the league.
“I think that gives us a lot of confidence, especially at home,” Beal said. “We haven’t really been shooting well the last couple of games, like you said, so for us to be able to knock down a couple was great for us, and hopefully, we can continue to knock them down going forward.”
The Bucks (15-65), already without one point guard in O.J. Mayo, who injured an ankle in a March 24 road loss to the Clippers, scratched another before the game when Brandon Knight was deemed unable to play because of an ailing right hip.
That left Ramon Sessions, who had 20 points and eight assists, to run the offense for nearly 42 minutes. Milwaukee trailed by nine when rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo was called for goaltending on a lay-up attempt by Wall with 4:45 to play in the first quarter, but it had erased a large deficit late in the second quarter and entered halftime trailing 55-52.
It even took a brief lead, holding a 61-59 advantage just over two minutes into the third quarter when Zaza Pachulia banked in a short jumper. The Wizards, though, regrouped on defense, forced six turnovers in the quarter and used a strong transition game – and several timely open shots – to sprint out to a 13-point lead by the end of the quarter.
A 10-2 run over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter pushed the Wizards ahead by 21, erasing any doubt that they’d be able to hold onto the lead. Milwaukee committed eight more turnovers in the fourth quarter.
“We just forced our will on them defensively,” forward Al Harrington said. “Our defense is going to be our calling card. Whenever we get stops, our offense just flows. Our offense just happens off of stops. It allows us to get in transition. I think that’s the staple of our team – the more we get on the break and be successful in that, the more we’re able to beat teams.”
Guard Khris Middleton also had 20 points for the Bucks, who have now lost 15 of their last 17 games and haven’t won on the road since Feb. 24.
Wall had 15 points, Marcin Gortat had 13 points and 13 rebounds and Trevor Ariza had 13 points for the Wizards. Nenê, who led Washington with 17 points in a 96-86 road victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday, was held out of the game against the Bucks as a precautionary measure after he returned from a sprained MCL in his left knee on Wednesday.
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