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Wizards fall to Bucks in another close one despite John Wall's big night

Wizards fall to Bucks in another close one despite John Wall's big night

The Washington Wizards lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 104-95 on Monday afternoon, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another Good One: The Wizards and Bucks have proven over the past several weeks to be quite the even match. Both teams are young, fast and boast burgeoning star power. 

But on Monday afternoon, the Bucks again got the best of the Wizards for the second time in nine days thanks to some key mistakes by Washington and some tough shots hit by Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

Antetokounmpo was again a major problem for the Wizards. He didn't shoot well in the first half, but made adjustments and the Wizards had no answers in the second half. He compiled an absurd line of 27 points, a career-high 20 rebounds, six assists and two blocks. Point guard Eric Bledsoe also hurt the Wizards with 23 points, 19 of which came in the second half.

The Wizards (25-19) had their two-game winning streak snapped, but have still won six of their last night overall. Now they head out on a lengthy road trip.

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Too Many Turnovers: The Wizards may have been able to build a significant first half lead if it wasn't for their inability to protect the ball. They had 17 turnovers in the first half alone, more than they had allowed in 13 of their previous 14 games.

Wall has had trouble with turnovers lately with eight turnovers in two of his previous four games, but it wasn't his problem early on, though he did have four in the game. Bradley Beal struggled with seven turnovers, one off his career-high.

The Wizards cleaned it up a bit in the second half. They had four turnovers in the third quarter and three in the fourth to total a season-high 24 for the game. The Bucks scored 25 points off those mistakes and it was a huge reason Washington lost.

Giveaways have been an issue for the Wizards in recent games. They had 23 against the Jazz last week.

Wall Went Off: On the final day of All-Star voting, Wall made a strong final case for himself with one of his best games of the 2017-18 season so far. Wall caught fire early with 16 points in the first quarter and 22 by halftime. 

Wall finished with 27 and got his points in all sorts of ways, including by going 12-for-13 from the free throw line. That was in addition to his usual mix of hard-charging layups and crafty midrange jumpers. He also had nine assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Wall has now scored at least 20-plus points in seven of his last eight games. It's safe to say he's rounding into midseason form. Wall has been making an impact for the Wizards for weeks, as they are 11-6 since he returned from injury, but now we are seeing him at his best as a scorer. When he's at peak form, he's unstoppable.

This play was a good example of just how good Wall has been playing lately. The degree of difficulty was high:

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Wall's five points in the second half were largely due to the Bucks throwing consistent double teams at him. They also did a good job with help defense to stop him from getting to the rim at will.

Beal vs. Brogdon: A big reason why Beal racked up those giveaways is that he was guarded by Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon. The former Virginia star is a real pest on the defensive end with unusual strength and quickness. He's a very smart player and knows how to play physical perimeter defense. He is a terrific weapon for the Bucks to have against the Wizards, as he can switch back and forth on Wall and Beal.

Brogdon spent most of the game guarding Beal and Beal did have some success. Despite the turnovers, he managed 19 points on 8-for-17 from the field. He had his streak of 20 points or more snapped at 10 games. Brogdon's impact was evident in the turnovers and also Beal going 1-for-7 from three.

Up next: After eight of their last nine games at home, the Wizards now embark on a five-game road trip. They begin at the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

PODCAST: BRADLEY BEAL ON HIS GROWTH AS A LEADER

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Loss to Magic shows how Wizards have few ideal options on defense

Loss to Magic shows how Wizards have few ideal options on defense

Wizards assistant coach and defensive specialist Mike Longabardi referred to them as "dare shots" on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast. Head coach Scott Brooks said after the game the Wizards were "playing the percentages." Basically, they gave Markelle Fultz and the Magic distance when playing defense, asking them to earn respect for their range. Orlando, to be fair, entered the game shooting 29 percent from three, dead-last in the NBA, and Fultz is a career 20-percent three-point shooter.

But the whole plan backfired. The Wizards instead met an unintended consequence in their 125-121 loss to the Magic on Sunday night. Fultz and his teammates not only made threes early, they kept it up all night, apparently finding a rhythm as a result of taking what the defense was offering. 

Fultz, the former No. 1 pick maligned for his so-called broken shot, sank two from the perimeter to tie a career-high. The Magic as a team made 15 threes, tying a season-high, and shot 39.5 percent from long range.

The Wizards went under screens and played off of Magic players they felt were unlikely to beat them with outside shooting, and it cost them. On one hand, it is easy to kick the Wizards while they are down. They didn't properly respect an opponent that, after all, is still an NBA team. 

Even guys who supposedly can't shoot can make them if left open. Even non-shooters practice and make threes all the time outside of games. Show up early to any NBA game and watch warm-ups and you can see that for yourself. 

But in a sense, the Wizards' reasoning can be understood. Even against a team like the Magic, a team that entered Sunday night averaging only 100.3 points per game (29th in the NBA), they may have to get creative.

That is because the Wizards have been and likely will continue to be a bad defensive team. They currently rank 29th out of 30 teams in defensive rating (114.4) and are dead-last in points allowed (120.1/g.). 

Without prototypical defensive personnel, the Wizards will need to think outside the box to get stops. Overloading one way or the other based on percentages may be the answer on a given night. 

The problem is that the Wizards didn't do their job in other areas. In addition to giving up too many threes, they didn't shore up things on the backend, either. Even with their manpower shifted closer to the rim, they still couldn't protect it.

The Magic had 42 points in the paint and outrebounded the Wizards 52-38. That included Orlando center Nikola Vucevic pouring in 30 points to go along with 17 boards all by himself.

The early goings of this season have demonstrated how the Wizards have no easy answers on the defensive end. The good news is that they do have a high-powered offense. While their defensive rating ranks second-worst in the league, their offensive rating is the best of any team and they are third in points scored.

Right now, the only way the Wizards can win is if they score a ton of points, as even broken Metro cars make more stops than them.

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Bradley Beal becomes 5th Wizard to reach 10,000-point milestone

Bradley Beal becomes 5th Wizard to reach 10,000-point milestone

Bradley Beal joined an exclusive group Sunday night. 

His 34 points were enough to reach the 10,000-point milestone, climbing up to fifth in the all-time franchise scoring ladder in the process. 

He scored his 19th point in the fourth quarter, scoring 15 points in that frame alone. He hit some smoothly-stroked 3-pointers in a comeback attempt that came short. After scoring 44 points in two straight contests, his 34 against Orlando came as no surprise. Now, only Elvin Hayes, Jeff Malone, Wes Unseld and John Wall have scored more points for Washington.

Beal's accomplishment comes one game after he passed Wall and Gilbert Arenas for the most 40-point and 10-assist outings in Wizards history with three. He fell two assists and six points shy of extending that record even further. 

Beal joins Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis from the 2012 NBA Draft class as players to reach the historic feat. He's taken the scoring load on his shoulders this season, and it wouldn't be shocking if he continues to climb the scoring charts. Given his long-term commitment to the team following his two-year max contract extension in the offseason, Beal certainly has a chance at scoring more points than any Wizard when all is said and done. 

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