What to Watch For: Bucks
Who wants a winning streak?!
Before Friday, the Bucks won 14 times. They are 0-14 in games that followed the game in which they were the winner. Now they have a 15th win. Can they pull off the upset victory on the road against a playoff-bound team?
Yeah, probably not.
I know that I routinely get lit up in the comments for not saying enough good things about Khris Middleton, but even I was surprised by the post-All Star break numbers for the Bucks. His defensive numbers have taken a turn for the worse and the eye test is backing them up.
Below is a pair of screenshots from the NBA.com/stats webpage. The first one is ranked by net efficiency on points per possession, and the second is ranked by FG%.
Middleton can still be an effective player. He shoots well and can make shots for himself out on the perimeter. But he has to tweak the rest of his game and start fresh in a season in which his legs haven’t turned to jelly.
It’s also interesting to see that Giannis Antetokounmpo continues to be one of the most efficient players on the Bucks in substantial minutes. His rebounding and passing are huge assets, but it’s probably his impact on both ends of the transition game that helps him most.
What to Watch For: Wizards
The Wizards are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. I asked Conor Dirks of Truth About It what could be reasonably expected of the Wizards in the postseason:
I think the answer to this question should have been more of a moving target throughout the season, but unfortunately for the Wizards and those who have invested their attention in D.C.’s team, the realistic expectation today is the same as it was before the season. Despite everything (the awful Eastern Conference, briefly occupying a home-court playoff spot), the Wizards have seemed too content to be what everyone thought they’d be: a near-.500 basketball team on its way to a five-game first-round exit against Miami or Indiana.
As of right now, the Wizards have a 1.0 game lead on holding onto the 6th seed, but even that would likely fetch them a game against the suddenly successful Chicago Bulls.
Time – 6:00 CDT
TV – None / NBA TV
Radio – 1250 WSSP
Bucks: Nate Wolters (fractured hand; out), Carlos Delfino (right foot surgery; out), O.J. Mayo (doubts; doubtful), Ersan Ilyasova (ankle, out), Ekpe Udoh (knees; questionable). Also absent, but not injured: Larry Sanders (suspension).
Wizards: None. Even Nene is healthy (though he did bump knees and leave last night’s game for a brief period).
PG Ramon Sessions
SG Brandon Knight
SF Khris Middleton
PF Jeff Adrien
C Zaza Pachulia
PG John Wall
SG Bradley Beal
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Trevor Booker
C Marcin Gortat
Choose the Form of the Destroyer: Trevor Ariza
In 2011 former Bucks GM Ernie Grunfeld had perhaps the most untradeable contract in the history of the NBA: the final three years, $60 million on the deal of gun-toting Gilbert Arenas. He swapped it for the slightly less horrifying deal of Rashard Lewis, which, in turn, he swapped for the unsavory contracts of Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. Then this past summer, Grunfeld traded a first-round pick and Okafor for Marcin Gortat.
By playing the Six Degrees of Gilbert Arenas, Grunfeld turned one of the most negative assets imaginable into the second- and third-best players on a playoff team. He even timed trading the first-rounder right. The Wizards are in the playoffs and out of the lottery for the first time in eons.
Ariza is everything that a non-star NBA small forward should be in 2014. He defends pick-and-rolls, he makes threes, he finishes at the rim, and he uses his length to disrupt opponents’ passing lanes. The Bucks are notoriously bad at making ill-thought passes on the perimeter and that plays exactly into Ariza’s forte.