The Washington Wizards entered Monday’s showdown against the Milwaukee Bucks looking to regain some momentum. Upon returning from the All-Star break, the Wizards went on a two-game losing streak.
The losses came at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers at home last Friday and the Chicago Bulls on the road last Sunday. So the stage was set for the Wizards to pull off an upset against the Bucks, who entered the game with the NBA’s best record (48-8). But it didn’t happen as Washington dropped their third straight game 137-134.
The defensive end of the floor for the Wizards let the team down yet again against Milwaukee. In the first half, the Bucks shot 57℅ from the field (20-35) and shot 52.9℅ from the 3-point range (9-17). With Milwaukee’s first half shooting splits, you would’ve thought reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo was the reason behind it.
But it was Khris Middleton, who the Wizards had problems containing in the January 28th matchup in Milwaukee. Middleton finished with 51 points that night and hurt the Wizards again on Monday night, scoring 40 points.
The Wizards did a good job of drawing fouls from Antetokounmpo. This resulted in him fouling out with 1:33 remaining in regulation.
Despite the deficit, the Wizards kept fighting
The Wizards squad shot 37.2% from the field (16-43) and 28.6% from three-point range. Going into the third quarter, they let the halftime deficit of 57-47 increase to as many as 20 in the period. But like we’ve seen quite a bit this season, the Wizards kept fighting.
The offense came alive in the fourth quarter for the Wizards, which was led by All-Star snub Bradley Beal. Beal scored 22 points in the period and seven in overtime. He would go on to set a career-high with 55 points on the night. The Wizards, after being down 20 points, would get the lead 123-121 with 1:01 to go in the game after a Beal bucket.
But the Wizards put Eric Bledsoe on the free throw line for two free throws, and Bledsoe made both. Afterward, both teams struggled to get the lead and overtime was on deck.
In overtime, both teams were exchanging the lead, setting it up for a wild ending. The Wizards, after Beal hit a 3-pointer with 2:20 left to give the Wizards a 130-128 lead, started gaining momentum. Afterward, Bledsoe turned it over and Beal scored again, upping his scoring total to 53.
The Bucks, however, regained the momentum behind Middleton, who went on to score the last nine points in overtime. Despite his tear, the Wizards still had a chance to tie the game. Down 137-134 with 7.8 seconds left, they went to tie the game and Troy Brown Jr’s. 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.
In the loss, Shabazz Napier shined
Despite the loss, the Wizards did have another bright spot, and that player was Shabazz Napier. Napier made the most of his playing time and stepped up on Monday night against the Bucks. He scored 27 points on 10-17 shooting.
Napier also shot 3-7 from 3-point range, dished out seven assists, and grabbed four rebounds in 36 minutes of action. With the Wizards, he’s averaging 11 points and 4.2 assists per game in 21.1 minutes played. Napier was also the reason why the Wizards won the bench scoring battle against the Bucks. Washington’s bench outscored Milwaukee’s 44-31.
Wizards playoff picture
The Wizards playoff hopes have taken some blows as of late. Losing three straight, with two of those games at home, definitely isn’t ideal. After the Orlando Magic’s 115-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night in Brooklyn, Washington now finds themselves 4 1/2 games behind the Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. On Wednesday, the Wizards face the Nets at home, which is a big game due to a four-game west coast trip looming.
Despite the loss, Beal put himself in elite company. He became the second player in NBA history to score 50 points in consecutive games. The first player to accomplish that feat was none other than Kobe Bryant.