Eastern Conference leaders the Milwaukee Bucks host the struggling Washington Wizards, live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Live NBA: Washington @ Milwaukee
Thursday 7th February 1:00am
The Wizards (22-31) come into this matchup having lost four of their last five games. Yet despite their poor recent form, they sit three just games back from the Miami Heat who occupy the East’s eighth and final playoff berth.
There have been some promising signs with the Wizards, as Tomas Satoransky, Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza have been thriving in the absence of John Wall (heel), who has been ruled out for at least 10 months due to a new Achilles surgery.
Bradley Beal celebrates a clutch score against Toronto
Where Washington need to improve is on the defensive end. They have conceded 130+ points in their last two outings which suggets they’re in for a long night against the potent Bucks offense.
The Bucks (39-13) own a 22-4 record at home this year, as Fiserv Forum has become a nightmare destination for opponents.
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It’s not just the Bucks’ home form that has got them to this point though – they are arguably the most well-rounded club in the NBA. Milwaukee rank top-three in both offensive and defensive efficiency – they are the only club in the league who can say that.
The Bucks come into this matchup in scorching-hot form, having won 10 of their last 11 games.
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All these factors make Milwaukee a team no one wants to face right now.
These teams have split their two matchups this season, with both games being played in Washington. The Wizards have been the better team in this series over recent years, winning 15 of their last 21 games against the Bucks.
Key Battle: Antetokounmpo vs Wizards interior defense
Antetokounmpo finishes in trademark fashion at the rim
No one has been able to stop the ‘Greek Freak’s’ constant raids to the basket and, given Washington’s recent porous defense, that will not change in this match-up.
Antetokounmpo leads the league in baskets made close to the basket (inside the restricted area – 7.9 per game). The best the Wizards can offer to stop him is Thomas Bryant, the back-up center who stepped into a starting role in the absence of Dwight Howard. He is likely in for a very long night.
Last time out
Highlights of the Washington Wizards’ 137-129 loss to the Atlanta Hawks
Highlights of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 113-94 victory over the Brooklyn Nets
111.8 – That’s Washington’s defensive rating (points conceded per 100 possessions), the league’s sixth-worst figure.
That woeful mark is trending downwards, too.
Wednesday night's games
- Denver Nuggets @ Brooklyn Nets ,12:30am
- New Orleans Pelicans @ Chicago Bulls, 1am
- Washington Wizards @ Milwaukee Bucks, 1am, live on Sky Sports Arena
- Charlotte Hornets @ Dallas Mavericks, 1:30am
- Phoenix Suns @ Utah Jazz, 2am
- Houston Rockets @ Sacramento Kings, 3am
- San Antonio Spurs @ Golden State Warriors, 3:30am
The Wizards have conceded 137 (against Atlanta) and 131 (against the Bucks) points in their last two outings.
One to watch: Tomas Satoranksy (Wizards)
Tomas Satoransky handles the ball under pressure from Luke Kornet
For the second season in a row, injury to Wall has provided Satoransky with an extended run as a Wizards starter.
The third-year guard is averaging career highs in minutes played, points and assists per game and has produced three 20-point games in the 17 games he has started.
One to watch (Bucks): Malcolm Brogdon
Malcolm Brogdon attacks the basket against Denver
The ever-improving third-year guard – a former NBA rookie of the year – is averaging a career-high 15.6 points per game. His field goal percentage (51.0) and three-point percentage (41.5) are career highs and he leads the league in free-throw percentage (94.6) to boot.
Brogdon does not receive the adulation enjoyed by franchise star Antetokounmpo, but he is a key component in the sustained success the Bucks have enjoyed thus far.
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