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Bucks chase season sweep of Wizards to end trip

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo
Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After consecutive defeats, Milwaukee Bucks coach Doc Rivers kept the defensive strategy unchanged and his trust led to a victory in advance of a visit to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

The Bucks had dropped back-to-back games to the Los Angeles Lakers at home and the New Orleans Pelicans on the road before getting the best of the host Atlanta Hawks in a 122-113 victory on Saturday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks (47-27) with 36 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists. Khris Middleton added 21 points along with six assists in a game Damian Lillard missed for personal reasons.

“I was really happy the way we played overall because (the Hawks) came out and did what they do, make 3s,” Rivers said. “Didn’t make any adjustment, just said let’s play right and play better. Thought we did that, and the ball movement was fantastic all day.”

The Hawks shot 40.0 percent from 3-point range to 28.6 percent for the Bucks, but Milwaukee made up the difference at the free-throw line with a 28-15 advantage in made shots.

Washington (14-61) played host to the Miami Heat on Sunday and saw its losing streak reach three games with a 119-107 defeat. The Wizards’ season-best three-game winning streak two weeks ago is all but a memory now.

Jordan Poole led the way for Washington with 22 points along with eight assists. Anthony Gill added 18 points and Deni Avdija scored 15 points with nine boards and six assists.

“I thought our process was good. I thought our ball movement, our pace was great,” Wizards coach Brian Keefe said. “We didn’t shoot the 3 like we usually do; guys who make shots did not.”

Kyle Kuzma leads Washington with 22.3 points per game this season but was out Sunday with a right heel contusion. Marvin Bagley III, obtained in a January trade with the Detroit Pistons, averages 8.3 rebounds per game this season, while Tyus Jones has 7.3 assists.

Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks with 30.8 points, 11.5 boards and 1.2 steals, while Lillard averages 7.1 assists and Brook Lopez averages 2.4 blocks.

On the injury front, Milwaukee’s report is clear outside of Lillard, who has missed multiple games this season due to what is listed as personal reasons. He has been ruled out for Tuesday’s game because of a right groin strain.

In addition to Kuzma’s absence, Richaun Holmes (toe) missed Sunday’s game. Both are considered are day-to-day.

Milwaukee has won five consecutive games against the Wizards and 15 of the last 17 going back to the 2018-19 season. Both matchups so far this season were in November and were not of the defensive variety that Rivers prefers.

The Bucks earned a 142-129 victory at Washington on Nov. 20 and came out on top 131-128 at home to the Wizards on Nov. 24.

In the latter matchup, Brook Lopez stepped up for Milwaukee and led with 39 points on 14-of-17 shooting. Antetokounmpo and Lillard each had 31 points while Lillard contributed 10 assists.

Four players had 20 points or more for Washington led by 26 from Poole, a Milwaukee area native. Jones and Kuzma each had 22 while Corey Kispert added 20 off the bench.

Despite its record, Washington does lead the league in one distinct category: pace, at 102.94. The Wizards are second in the NBA with 17.2 fast-break points per game.

Milwaukee, while trying to distance itself from its early-season defensive struggles, is ninth in the NBA in opponent’s fast-break points allowed at 13.7 per game and have climbed up to the middle of the pack at 14 in overall defensive rating at 115.0.

–Field Level Media

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