Washington Wizards at Milwaukee Bucks (-1, 211 o/u)
After nearly reaching the Eastern Conference finals last year, the Washington Wizards (23-27, 12-11 Away) have stumbled this season. But they’ll have an opportunity to enter the All-Star break on a high note with a win tonight. The Wizards will try to win back-to-back games for the first time in a month when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks (21-32, 14-8 Home) at the BMO Harris Bradley Center (8:00 PM Eastern).
The Wizards were a John Wall-injury away from making the Eastern Conference finals last year, but will enter this year’s break a couple games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. Washington found some success in their last outing, beating the struggling New York Knicks 111-108 on Tuesday. Wall had 28 points and 17 assists on the night, while Bradley Beal added 26 points.
The Wizards took a 13-point lead into halftime, but let the Knicks claw their way back into the game in the second half.
“First half we played aggressive and we were into the ball, we took their flow away,” Wall told the Associated Press. “Second half, start of the third quarter, we didn’t take their flow away.”
The Knicks almost made it all the way back, climbing within a point with just five seconds remaining. But Wall sealed the win with a pair of free throws.
The Bucks are one of the few teams in the East perhaps more disappointing than the Wiz. A six-seed in last year’s playoffs, Milwaukee appeared to be a team on the upswing, but they haven’t been able to adjust to the pace-and-space, jump-shooting style of the new NBA. Only Minnesota attempts fewer three-pointers per game than the Bucks, and that’s a big reason they’re one of the lower scoring teams in the NBA (98.1 PPG, 25th in the league).
The Bucks will need a great second half of the season to get back to the playoffs. Currently 11 games below .500, the team sits six games back of the final postseason spot in the East.
Milwaukee snapped a five-game losing streak on Tuesday, beating the Celtics, 112-111. Greg Monroe had 29 points and 12 rebounds in that win. “It’s all about getting the win and making sure I do my part when I’m out on the court,” Monroe told the AP.
But the team lacks a true go-to scorer, which often hurts them in tight contests. Management were hoping that Michael Carter-Williams would emerge into that player when they dealt for the Syracuse product at the deadline last year, but that was evidently a miscalculation. The point guard is averaging just over 11 points per game (down from 14 PPG last year) and hasn’t seen his assist numbers increase, either (5.4 APG).
Washington may have issues winning consistently, but that is not the case against Milwaukee. The Wizards have won all three meetings this season and eight of the last ten. This is a team built to outscore the stagnant Bucks.
Pick: Washington (+1).
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)
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