Wizards Take Advantage of Giannis-less Bucks to Steal Season Series | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Take Advantage of Giannis-less Bucks to Steal Season Series

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Updated: January 9, 2017

When the Milwaukee Bucks announced that budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo would be missing the game against the Wizards because of an undisclosed illness, the Vegas “sharks” adjusted the betting line accordingly, driving the Bucks from five-point favorites at home down to 1.5-point frontrunners.

Giannis’ absence, of course, did not guarantee Washington victory, and when the Bucks were up 12 points in the third quarter, another road loss seemed likely. The Wizards found themselves in the position of having to dig out of another double-digit deficit because of poor ball-security—they committed 19 turnovers in the game. Fortunately for Washington, the Bucks could not capitalize on the takeaways. Milwaukee only scored 20 points off 19 turnovers, and the Wizards were able to make more out of less: 27 points from 16 Bucks turnovers.

Turnovers have been almost as much of an Achilles’ heel for this team as the sub-par bench play. Also, at some point we have to acknowledge that John Wall has to do a much better job of maintaining possession of the ball since he leads the team with a usage rate of 30.7 percent and is currently third in the in NBA with 4.44 turnovers per game. Wall committed five turnovers in this contest (four in the first quarter alone) to just seven assists, and he looked to be out of sorts for the majority of the time.

Then the fourth quarter came, and Wall turned into the laser-focused closer that has kept the season afloat. The All-Star hopeful scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, dazzling the road crowd with a bevy of crossover moves that were capped off by pin-point midrange jumpers. Wall continues to show confidence in his midrange game—it’s nearly a go-to shot for pressure situations when plays break down (a crutch, to be sure, but a helpful one). According to NBAminer.com, Wall is sixth in the NBA with 77 points in clutch time (during the fourth quarter or overtime, with less than five minutes remaining and neither team ahead by more than five points). So while Wall can definitely improve on his ball-security issues, he continues to show real growth as the clutch scorer this team desperately needs.

For the other three quarters of the game, the Wizards other All-Star hopeful, Bradley Beal(a long-shot, at best), asserted himself. Beal shot 10-for-19 from the floor (nearly reaching Scott Brooks’ optimal amount of shots per game of 20 for Beal). Even more impressive about Beal’s 26-point scoring day was the fact that he shot just 2-for-10 from 3-point range, but he did not allow that to affect his aggressiveness elsewhere. Beal, like Wall has shown a remarkable improvement in his midrange shot this season, shooting a career high 47.1 percent from between 16 feet from the basket and the 3-point line.

Beal was able to take advantage of an over-aggressive Tony Snell for a majority of the game by keeping his dribble alive and stepping inside the arc to hit a few of those midrange jumpers. When the Bucks moved Snell over to defend Wall in the waning moments of the game, Beal was able to make life difficult for Malcolm Brogdon by forcing him to chase around the perimeter.

Role Player Roll Call.

It wasn’t just Wall and Beal who led Washington to their fourth road win of the season. The Wizards got some abnormally solid contributions from a few role players that ultimately was the key difference in the outcome.

Markieff Morris had one of his better outings, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes. The amount of playing time is important because it is well above his season average of 31.4 minutes per game. Keef saw an uptick in minutes because he avoided getting into foul trouble and demonstrated very early on that he would be a force to reckoned with in the low post against a weak Bucks frontline. Morris a few times displayed his power game against Mirza Teletovic, a matchup the Wizards tried to exploit. Teletovic wasn’t the only Bucks big man who failed to slow down Markieff, John Henson also seemed overmatched and Greg Monroe was just too slow. Give credit to Brooks for recognizing early that Markieff brought his A-game. The coach subsequently adjusted his lineup to spot Morris minutes at the 5 spot in the second half to take advantage of Milwaukee’s lack of rim-protection with Giannis’ freakish wingspan not on the floor.

Kelly Oubre also had himself a game, his first quality outing since suffering a concussion a few weeks back. Oubre finished with 17 points and five rebounds on 7-for-14 shooting and played with a level of confidence not seen since his breakout performance against the Bucks in early December when he scored a season-high 19 points.

Who knew that maybe all Oubre needed to get him out of his post-concussion slump was a little YMCA lunch time conflict?

Oubre is shooting 12-for-23 from the field and averaging 10.3 points in the three games since working out with his trainer Drew Hanlan in Dallas. Not only is Oubre shooting the ball better, but he seems to be a lot more attentive to the small details going on around him. On Sunday, he made a few nice cuts to the basket which resulted in easy dunks, which further allowed him to get into a rhythm and build his confidence.

Sheldon McClellan is quietly increasing his reliability and has even separated himself from Marcus Thornton in the rotation—just a little. McClellan rarely forces the issue and often allows the game to come to him, rare for a rookie. He scored eight points on 3-for-5 shooting and also played extraordinary defense on Matthew Dellavedova and Malcolm Brogdon in his 12 minutes of game action. Brooks has given McClellan a string of consistent minutes since he returned from a stint with the Delaware 87ers, so consistent that Thornton has received two consecutive DNP’s. We have reached the point of the season where coaches are beginning to shun veterans who aren’t contributing to winning basketball, and it appears as if Brooks is willing to give the young fella a chance to prove himself.

Otto Porter did not have his best game, but he hit three big 3-pointers despite struggling to guard Jabari Parker on the defensive end. Parker finished with a game-high 28 points and appeared to be a little bit too much for Otto to handle in the opportunities he had to defend the Duke product.

Trey Burke failed to score but did finish with a season high five assists, including one steal and assist to a Sheldon McClellan and-1 that was a big momentum changer. That play created a five-point swing in the fourth quarter and allowed he Wizards to maintain a lead over the Bucks until Wall was able to close out the last 7:30 of the contest.

Big Picture.

There is no doubt that the Wizards have had better outings than the on Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, but at the end of the season this win may be one of the more important results in terms playoff positioning. Washington was able to steal the season series against the Bucks, 3-1, and now hold a very critical tie-breaker over an up-and-coming team should they both finish with the same record. The Wizards got themselves back to .500 mark and on Tuesday will look to have a winning record for the first time since November of 2015 (6-5).

 

Troy Haliburton on Twitter
Troy Haliburton
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Troy Haliburton is a native Washingtonian, and graduate of Gonzaga College High School and Morehouse College. Bylines on bylines on bylines.

Will write for food.