D.C. Council Opening Statements: Wizards at Bucks, Game 15
In my season preview of Garrett Temple, I described a potential doomsday scenario:
He is a high-character guy who is a positive influence on teammates. Plus, his ability to defend multiple positions is an asset to bring off the bench in spot scenarios. Temple provides an insurance policy at both guard positions; there is a need for him on the 15-man squad. He could see additional playing time by improving on his outside shot and being a calming influence when running the point. However, if Temple logs major minutes again (he averaged almost 23 minutes per game last season), then Washington’s playoff goals are in serious trouble.
Bradley Beal has been declared out for at least two weeks, Eric Maynor is causing more problems than he is solving, Paulie Walnuts is far scarier than Wizards bench mob, and Temple’s role has now been increased out of necessity. In just the fourth week of NBA season, my negative prognostication skills will be tested. The “next man up” motto must have actual bite rather than the cliché hollowness of the recent era, else serious trouble is on the horizon for this Washington team. #NoMoreExcuses, remember?
Reminiscent of what the Wizards were stricken with at the beginning of last season, the Bucks have been besieged with injuries and are in a bad place right now. They have lost nine games in a row and possess the second-worst winning percentage in the NBA. The Wizards are only 2-6 on the road this season, and after Milwaukee tonight, they will face off against two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this weekend. They play at Indiana on Friday and host Atlanta on Saturday.
Teams: Wizards at Bucks
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
Television: FSN Wisconsin, CSN+
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, AM 620 WTMJ
Spread: Washington fav’d by 2.5 points
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: The Milwaukee Bucks have lost nine a row and currently sit at 2-12. They have been plagued by injuries, which followers of the Wizards can always relate to, but what exactly is going on during this long losing streak?
@AnaheimAmigos: Coming into the season, the point guard spot was the biggest question mark. On opening night, Luke Ridnour was a surprise scratch with a back problem, then Brandon Knight hurt his hamstring two minutes into the season. Suddenly, the Bucks’ sole facilitator was a rookie second-round pick from South Dakota State: Nate Wolters. Wolters fared surprisingly well given the circumstance, but the Bucks haven’t been so fortunate in their attempts to work Ridnour and Knight back into the rotation. Ridnour has been a hot mess on defense, and Knight has slayed the Bucks with bad turnovers in recent games. Oh, and Milwaukee’s best player, Larry Sanders, injured his thumb in a champagne bottle bar fight after a game where he griped about not getting enough minutes. Ho hum.
Q #2: The Bucks made a series of roster moves in the summer and began the season with same mindset as Washington: going all-in for the playoffs. It’s early and the injuries are playing a role, but was this approach a mistake?
@AnaheimAmigos: Some were good, some weren’t. Getting O.J. Mayo was probably a good move. He’s young, and the Bucks needed a scorer badly. But John Hammond also gave multi-year deals to three vets with serious foot injuries from the previous season: Carlos Delfino (broken bone), Zaza Pachulia (Achilles tendon issues), and Gary Neal (plantar fasciitis). All three are still dealing with those issues in some capacity; Delfino is out for the whole season. If there was ever a way to set up an accidental tank, signing three bad wheels would do the trick.
Q #3: Ex-Wizard Caron Butler, returning to his hometown Milwaukee area, is having a decent start by averaging 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Butler even rolled in 38 points in a heart-breaking loss to Philadelphia. What is up with Tuff Juice?
@AnaheimAmigos: Butler, Mayo and Neal came out of the gates guns ablazing—all three were deadly accurate jump shooters to start the season. But coach Larry Drew was trying to implement his offense at the same time and it displeased him when his overconfident shooters began to eschew ball movement in favor of their own shots. After a bad loss to Charlotte the day after the 76ers game, Drew vowed to shake up the starting lineup. Butler was the victim, as Drew replaced him with former Piston Khris Middleton, who has been a little more active as a defender and passer.
Q #4: Washington comes in after a win versus the Lakers while Milwaukee is working on a day’s rest. The Bucks are allowing opponents to shoot 53.4 percent from the field over past three games, which is highest in NBA in that short span. However, the Wizards missing Bradley Beal might prevent them from capitalizing. How do you see this game playing out? What is your prediction?
@AnaheimAmigos: The Bucks have done a miserable job of hitting the defensive glass this season in Sanders’ absence. While John Henson has stepped up his presence in the paint, Zaza Pachulia hasn’t done much to slow opposing offenses. Nene and Marcin Gortat played 37 and 35 minutes against the Lakers. If they can find their legs on short rest, then I would expect them to bully the Bucks starters a bit and score a bunch in the paint. If not, then the Bucks will have a chance to end their skid while playing their first regular-season game on their new floor. Prediction: Wizards 91, Bucks 79.
Q #5: Can the Wizards overcome the road woes and take down this struggling Bucks squad?
@AdamMcGinnis: The analysis often left out in the Wizards’ surprisingly competitive finish with John Wall (24-25) was that the team was still miserable away from the Verizon Center. They ended up with 6-21 road record with Wall in 2012-13. Since Ted Leonsis took majority ownership, his team has been historically awful on the road (21-103). I agree with Leonsis that a simple recipe for a successful professional sports franchise is to be dominant at home and decent on the road. The Wizards went (18-4) at the Phone Booth with Wall last season, and using the same winning percentage for this season, it would translate out to a 33-9 home record. Washington would only need to nab nine road victories to end up at the .500 mark and 13 to achieve 45 wins, which is Ernie Grunfeld’s high water mark in his decade of stewardship.
What does this have to do with the Bucks? Well, because this is a winnable game that Washington must take if they want to inch closer to their noble playoffs goal. All of the glowing praise being showered on Wall and the Wizards today after beating the Lakers would be spoiled if they blow this game tonight.
This is the first meeting between the two teams since the pre-NBA Draft rumored trade of Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova for Washington’s third pick, which ended up being Otto Porter. Weirdly, or maybe just naturally, both of those main pieces (Ghostface and Young Simba) have been sidelined with injuries and each is now coming back in some capacity. With Larry Sanders still unavailable for being a jackass, Washington should establish Nene and Gortat early before igniting Wall’s transition jets. Washington is second in the NBA in fast break points. Milwaukee is 25th in the same category. My prediction: Wall drills more clutch shots in crunch time and the Wizards pull out a squeaker, 92-87.