Opening Statements: Wizards vs Bucks, Game 3 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Bucks, Game 3

Updated: November 1, 2014



No, the Wizards probably won’t top LeBron and Cleveland with their home opening night pomp and circumstance. But I bet there will be face painting. The Washington franchise is ever-looking to charm fans, season ticket holders, and potential season ticket holders with value-added dazzle, but Ted Leonsis — who performed marketing splash cannon-balls in his early days as owner — is increasingly conscious of not going over-the-top. The fact is, these Wizards just want to win. Because a losing past still haunts them.

Last season, after getting man handled by the Pistons in Detroit for the opener, the Wizards came back to the District two nights later and gave the purposefully-tanking Philadelphia 76ers one of 19 wins on the years. (Philly beat playoff teams Miami, Washington, and Chicago in their first three games — go figure.) Now, Milwaukee. The Bucks gave the Wizards trouble in two early schedule games last, both went into overtime. Washington won, 100-92, without Bradley Beal in Milwaukee in late-November. Marcin Gortat led the way with 25 points, six of which came in OT, and Jan Vesely was still accepting alley-oops back then. In the District barely a week later, the Bucks took the 109-105 OT win. Khris Middleton destroyed the Wiz with 29 points, Otto Porter travelled on his first NBA possession, and a miscommunication led to Trevor Ariza knocking John Wall out of bounds on a game-deciding possession. Also, Chris Singleton had a big chance to hit a game-winner in regulation, but didn’t. The Wiz didn’t have Beal for the second OT game, either.

The tune was very different for the last two games, much later in the season in early-March and about a month later in April. Beal also played in both and scored 49 total points. The Wizards beat the Bucks by seven, 114-107, in Milwaukee for the former, and won 104-91 in Washington for the latter. In March, the Wizards built a 22-point halftime lead, lost the third quarter by 11 points, and hung on in the fourth period, losing it by four points. Trevor Ariza (#ArizaBruh) led the Wizards with 28 points, but the Wiz won because Beal made two very clutch plays down the stretch. The difference in the last game was simply Washington being more in-sync. The Bucks committed 20 turnovers to 20 assists while the Wizards limited themselves to nine turnovers to 25 assists. A 32-22 third quarter for Washington, after being up just three points at half, also was a deciding factor–Beal scored nine points in the third and all came within the first four and a half minutes.

Tonight, there will again be no Bradley Beal, but the Wizards now have a Paul Pierce, aging but still as clutch (if not more) and in more creative ways (at this point) than the missing Bradley. And Washington, on paper, has more talent regardless. On most nights in the NBA, however, you can tear up that paper. Milwaukee has talent, too–a now-healthy Larry Sanders patrolling the paint, a youthful and dangerous rookie in Jabari Parker, and a scorers like O.J. Mayo coming off the bench. Mayo, by the way, dropped 25 off the bench last night, leading Milwaukee to their first win, 93-81, in their home opener over, you guessed it, those aforementioned tanking 76ers or Philadelphia. Now, back to the future… tonight’s season debut at the Verizon Center. Let’s take a further look at the opponent.

Joining me today is K.L. Chouinard (@AnaheimAmigos), editor of ESPN Truehoop’s Milwaukee Bucks blog, Bucksketball. Let us go…

Teams: Wizards vs Bucks
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/WNEW-FM 99.1
Spread: Wizards favored by 9 points.

Q #1: I love the young talent on Milwaukee’s roster, and I think they are not just a rebuilding tank job, but rather a squad that can sneak up on and beat some good teams. That said, most are picking the Bucks to be in the bottom five of the league and the over/under on wins has been set at 24.5.

Looking at the next two seasons, how optimistic are you on the scale of 1-to-5 (1 being glass empty, 5 being glass full). And for this season, do you take the over or under on Milwaukee wins?

@AnaheimAmigos: I’m optimistic, probably around the level of a 4. General manager John Hammond hasn’t made a bad move in a long while. He got Jabari Parker. His drafts have all been excellent, including the steal of Giannis Antetokounmpo a year ago. He picked up an extra first-round pick from the Clippers for adding Jared Dudley. Even on Friday, he backed away from overpaying sometimes-hit, sometimes-miss point guard Brandon Knight on a contract extension.

The only bad move of recent memory was trading Tobias Harris for J.J. Redick, and even that move may have been a capitulation to ownership to make a run at the 8th seed of the 2013 playoffs. And that ownership is gone.

It may not result in wins overnight, but the Bucks are making a gradual series of moves that should propel them in the right direction over the long term.

Q #2: The Bucks were up 24 on the Hornets in Charlotte with just under seven minutes to go in the 3rd on Wednesday night and were up 13 with just over five minutes left in the 4th … and then lost in OT.

What had happened? And can you explain this Tweet?

@AnaheimAmigos: Part of the simple answer is that the Bucks played much better at the quicker tempo of transition than when it slowed to a half court game. When Charlotte made a few baskets to close the gap and the Bucks had to pull the ball out of their own goal and make one of a tough one of their own, they couldn’t.

As far as that tweet goes, Kidd’s defensive schemes showed a lot of the same aggressive traps out of the pick and roll that you might have seen out of LeBron’s Miami teams or Kidd’s Nets team last season. When the pick-and-roll defense is being defended by the 1 through 4 (i.e., anyone other than the center), it is common for both defenders to go hard at the ballhandler while the rest of the defense is left to cover up the gaps behind it. But Kidd takes the opposite approach with his big men and drops them back to defend the rim.

The scheme worked terrifically for a lot of the game, but failed miserably on the game-tying play in regulation.

First, Kidd neglected to foul up three points with the Hornets out of timeouts. Second, Larry Sanders did what Kidd wants to happen for the first 47 minutes: drop back into the paint. Of course, that’s a strategy for disaster when the only shot that ties the game is a 3-pointer.

Q #3: What is Giannis Antetokounmpo’s position of the future (point-forward, wing, etc.)? Or in his future, maybe there are no positions?

@AnaheimAmigos: He has the handles and the passing ability to be a point forward or a point guard or whatever position he can manage to cover defensively. He was the point guard for the fourth quarter of a preseason game against the Bulls and it went strikingly well.

But in the next game, he matched up with Matthew Dellavedova at point guard for a full game, and Dellavedova just sagged down toward the rim and gave Giannis whatever he wanted from the outside. Giannis had no answer for that. For the entirety of the preseason, he made just 2 of 28 shots longer than 7 feet, and his continued development as an offensive player — and he can be a force — depends on perfecting his jump shot.

Q #4: Which Buck is most likely to get traded this season and what’s your ideal scenario?

@AnaheimAmigos: Jason Kidd used 11 of his 13 active players in the season opener. Players who I would describe as combo guards — Brandon Knight and Jerryd Bayless — got all of the minutes at point guard, while the two best distributors — Nate Wolters and Bishop O’Connell alum Kendall Marshall — sat for the whole game.

The player I would most expect to get traded is Bayless. He was signed shortly before Marshall came on board, and it would make sense for them to shop a vet like Bayless to a playoff contender in order to develop a younger guy through extended playing time.

Q #5: Which unheralded Buck should Wizards fans know about and who will be recognized more widely by the All-Star break?

@AnaheimAmigos: I’ll punt on this question like a true D.C. congressman and not really answer it. The Bucks actually have three teenagers on their roster: Parker, Antetokounmpo, and Damien Inglis, a wide-bodied 19-year-old who Hammond picked with the first pick of the second round. Inglis is the second NBA player from French Guyana. (Y’all know the first one.) But he won’t be wowing anyone for a while as he continues to recover from a broken foot, so it will take longer than the All-Star break.


End Vines.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.