The Washington Wizards are 15-30 this season, which is good for 11th place in the Eastern Conference. Objectively, they are not very good. On the almost opposite end of the spectrum are the Milwaukee Bucks, who come in on an 8-game win streak. Objectively, they are very good. It might even be fair to say they are historically good.
On paper, this seems like the type of game where the Wizards should get blown out. However, on several occasions this season they have risen to the challenge against much better teams (see their wins against the 76ers, Celtics, and Heat).
Brook and Robin Lopez against Ian Mahinmi and Thomas Bryant. Not exactly the barnburner many would have expected. Giannis Antetokounmpo is out tonight due to a shoulder injury. He is so much of what the Bucks do that this may actually give the Wizards a sliver of a chance.
Even without Giannis, the Lopez Bros. are two of the more imposing rim protectors in the league. Per Zach Kram of the Ringer, “Out of 220 players who have defended 50-plus shots within 6 feet of the basket, Brook Lopez ranks first, Robin Lopez second, and Giannis third in lowest field goal percentage allowed.”
For the Wizards to have a chance tonight (and most nights honestly), they will need to make the Bucks respect them from the perimeter. If Beal and Bertans are making their threes, then it may clear a little room around the basket for everyone else to operate.
Other things to watch for
- Who on the Wizards will be tasked with guarding Kris Middleton, a fringe All-Star this season? I would imagine Troy Brown Jr. will draw the assignment for a lot of the night. The Wizards need Brown Jr. to be able to at least make life difficult for players of Middleton’s caliber.
- Athletic and aggressive Eric Bledsoe against Isaiah Thomas does not bode well for the Wizards. Expect to see Gary Payton II to draw Bledsoe to start and eventually Ish Smith to phase in for a bulk of the point guard minutes.
Isaac Bonga and Jordan McRae are questionable. Moritz Wagner, Rui Hachimura, Garrison Mathews, and John Wall are out.
Sterling Brown is questionable. Giannis Antetokounmpo is out.
Spread: Bucks -16
O/U: 243.5 points
ML: Bucks -1489, Washington +1030