The Washington Post

Bucks go deep to thwart Wizards

Washington gives up 22 three-pointers


The Wizards did nearly everything right against the Nba-leading Bucks on Sunday night. But the difference between championsh­ip-caliber teams such as Milwaukee and the league’s hoi polloi is knowing how to turn an inch into a mile.

Washington gave up plenty of three-pointers — Milwaukee ranks fourth in threes per game, so it was going to get them no matter what — but capitalize­d everywhere else. Still, that was enough for the Bucks, who won, 117-111, behind 22 makes from beyond the arc at Capital One Arena.

That was the most three-pointers Washington has allowed this season. And that let the Bucks (46-18) regain their footing after their 16-game winning streak ended Saturday in Philadelph­ia.

“As far as game plan, we did what we were supposed to do,” Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “. . . [ The Bucks are] a highvolume offensive rebounding team — we negated that. [ They are a high-scoring] paint team —

took care of that area. But the three-point line, that’s where the game was lost.”

The Wizards (30-34), who lost for the second time in as many nights, faltered in the flashiest categories but excelled in the gritty margins. They shot 42.6 percent from the field and 25.8 percent from three-point range, and their ball movement was stopand-start at times.

But for once, Washington didn’t rely on its pretty offense. With forward Kyle Kuzma out with knee soreness after banging legs with another player during Saturday’s overtime loss to Toronto and point guard Monte Morris out as he works his way back from lower-back soreness, the Wizards kept pace by showing out just about everywhere else.

Most important were the rebounds. They beat Milwaukee — the NBA’S best rebounding team — 56-46 on the boards and had 20 second-chance points off a whopping 20 offensive rebounds. They made the Bucks pay for turnovers, too, converting the visitors’ 12 giveaways into 21 points. And they were highly efficient in the paint, scoring 58 points to Milwaukee’s 28.

As a result, the Wizards stayed within single digits for all but 17 seconds of the second half — and even led for a few fleeting moments of the fourth quarter.

It meant little to Washington’s greater purpose of climbing up the Eastern Conference standings. The Wizards still hold the No. 10 seed, the last spot in next month’s play-in tournament.

“We’ve got to start winning. We can’t keep saying, you know, moral victories,” Bradley Beal said. “Those don’t exist once February hits. We’ve got to start winning.”

Beal led the way with 33 points on 15-for-32 shooting and added nine rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis had 24 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Deni Avdija added 17 points and six rebounds after battling a stomach bug, and Delon Wright had 10 points and five assists.

Giannis Antetokoun­mpo had a triple-double with 23 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to lead six Bucks in double figures. Milwaukee shot 46.4 percent.

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss:

Raining three-pointers

Sunday was the third time this season the Wizards allowed at least 20 three-pointers. Boston had 21 on Oct. 30, and Golden State had 20 on Feb. 13. Unseld said the primary issue was his players over-helping on defense.

“We talked about it before the game: They’re going to be a highvolume three-point shooting team. They shoot it with some degree of efficiency,” Unseld said. “. . . We knew going in we were going to have to live with some [threes]. By loading to Giannis and showing him a crowd, he’s going to kick it out. Some of them I can live with, then we got caught overhelpin­g three or four times.”

Gill gets the start

Backup forward Anthony Gill started because Avdija was a game-time decision after checking out of Saturday’s game early with a stomach bug. Both players were feeling under the weather Sunday — Gill said he was having the same stomach issue Avdija dealt with.

Gill had two points and six rebounds in 19 minutes.

On the way

The Wizards plan to sign Xavier Cooks, 27, from Australia’s National Basketball League once his team’s season ends, a person with knowledge of Washington’s thinking said. Cooks’s Sydney Kings are in the NBL Finals; he is set to receive a contract from the Wizards that will run through the 2023-24 season.

A 6-foot-8 power forward, Cooks was named NBL MVP last month after averaging 16.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists. After Jamaree Bouyea’s 10-day contract is complete, Cooks will fill the roster spot created when Washington waived center Vernon Carey Jr. ESPN first reported the signing.

Morris progresses

Morris resumed playing oneon-one after receiving an epidural injection Wednesday. Unseld said the 27-year-old is in the process of ramping up for a return.

 ?? PATRICK SMITH/GETTY Images ?? Bradley Beal scored 33 points for the Wizards, but Giannis Antetokoun­mpo, rear, had a triple-double.
PATRICK SMITH/GETTY Images Bradley Beal scored 33 points for the Wizards, but Giannis Antetokoun­mpo, rear, had a triple-double.

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