Few positives can be taken from a defensive perspective when a player scores 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting to go along with 13 rebounds and seven assists, a line that Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo compiled on Saturday night at the Verizon Center. But the Wizards - who won the game 110-105 - can take pride in one particular stat that did not reflect well on Antetokounmpo.
That would be the turnover category where Antetokounmpo tied a career-high with seven of them. The Greek Freak commits his fair share of turnovers normally, ranking sixth in the NBA with 3.5 per game. But only once before has he had seven and not since January 24 of 2015.
"We tried to make it crowded for him and he did turn the ball over a few times, probably too many than he would like," head coach Scott Brooks said. "But that was our plan, just to crowd the paint and make it tough on him. But he is really a great player and we had our hands full tonight.”
Brooks relied heavily on his newly discovered small-ball lineup, one that includes both Otto Porter, Jr. and Kelly Oubre, Jr. on the floor at the same time. Both are primarily small forwards, but provide length and versatility which allow the Wizards to make smooth switches on defense. Oubre played the entire fourth quarter and Porter logged 9:24 of the frame.
Their long arms make it tough for defenders to go around them and that helped against Antetokounmpo, who had four turnovers in the second half. A 6-foot-11 point guard, Antetokounmpo likes to attack off the dribble and usually has no problem getting around his defenders.
"That was my prerogative tonight to take that matchup with Giannis pretty seriously," Oubre said. "Just try to speed him up. Don't give him what he's use to having. He's a driver, he's a slasher. Just stay in from of him. That's definitely what we tried to do and I feel like we did a great job of that tonight."
Giannis wasn't the only Bucks player the Wizards had success against defensively. Former second overall pick Jabari Parker was limited to a season-low eight points. Parker entered the game averaging 19.6 points on the year.
"The biggest thing was making sure they saw bodies," guard Bradley Beal said. "Their strongest point is driving to the basket. They love to get points in the paint."
This was a nice follow-up for the Wizards after they beat the Nuggets on Thursday night and held them to just 85 points, including 33 in the second half. To put together two consecutive defensive outings like this seems like a step in the right direction for a 9-13 Wizards team that is off to a disappointing start overall in large part because of their defense late in games.
Beal called their recent play on defense "grimy" and he meant it in a good way. Guard John Wall, who has complained about his team's defensive effort at times this season, also saw progress.
“I think we’re getting to the point where if we’re not making shots we’re still competing and keeping our edge on the defensive end and competing – making people feel us and I think that’s helping us," he said.
Now comes a chance to do it for three straight games. On Monday the Wizards will play the Miami Heat and attempt to do something they haven't done all year, win three games in a row.