Wizards

Wizards make a statement win over defending champion Bucks

Wizards

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Milwaukee Bucks 101-94 at Capital One Arena on Sunday night. Here are five observations from what went down...

Two in a row

Ten games may be an arbitrary round number in the context of a full 82-game NBA regular season, but it also seems like a decent snapshot to take a step back and evaluate what the Wizards have shown us so far, especially after a convincing victory over the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday night. The win, Washington's second straight, pushed it to 7-3, marking the franchise's best start to a season in seven years.

That 7-3 record equates to a 57-win pace over a full season. While they may slow down a bit over time, there's no question they are exceeding expectations so far and probably raising the bar for what many around the league think they are capable of.

On top of the wins, the Wizards are showing a resiliency that should suit them well in the long haul. They continue to play without a collection of key rotation players and in winning their last two games (and against good teams), they rebounded nicely from their first two-game losing streak of the season.

Washington's schedule should, in theory, begin to lighten up a bit. Up next they see the Cleveland Cavaliers, who at 6-4 are off to a better start than expected but are young and inexperienced. After that, they see the 2-8 Orlando Magic and 1-9 New Orleans Pelicans.

 

Gafford vs. Giannis

The Wizards used a collection of players to match up with two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo on defense. They started with Kyle Kuzma on him, then deployed Deni Avdija. Montrezl Harrell saw some time against the Greek Freak and so did Daniel Gafford. As a group, they played him fairly well, as evidenced by his 10 points in the first half. He ended up with a stat-line of 29 points and 18 rebounds, but it was marred by a 5-for-12 night at the free throw line.

There was one play, however, that is definitely worth highlighting and it showed the growth of Gafford, who continues to ascend at just 23 years old. Late in the first half, Gafford found himself in isolation with Antetokounmpo at the top of the key. 

Antetokounmpo drove left and got ahead by half a step. But Gafford closed the gap and blocked his layup attempt at the rim with his right hand. It was the type of defensive play you rarely see executed against Antetokounmpo.

Gafford proved he has the special combination of size, length and quickness to guard arguably the game's best and most physically dominant player. There have been so many meetings between these teams over the years where defending Antetokounmpo seemed to be a physical impossibility. But Gafford is a special athlete in his own right and seems to have all the intangibles to match.

Turnover happy

One game after committing an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Wizards once again had trouble protecting the ball. They had 19 giveaways against Milwaukee, including 11 in the first half alone. They entered the game averaging only 13.9 turnovers per game, 10th-fewest in the NBA.

That stunted the Wizards' offense and played right into the hands of the Bucks, who prefer a faster style of play than Washington. Milwaukee turned those turnovers into 21 points on the other end. The Wizards, though, still did a nice job in transition, as they only gave up four fastbreak points. They came into the game allowing the second-fewest fastbreak points in the league.

Hot from three

The tide may be slowly turning when it comes to the Wizards and their three-point shooting. After hitting 10 of them against Memphis at a 40% clip, they shot 11-for-27 from deep against Milwaukee good for 40.7%. Seven different Wizards players hit at least one three. Bradley Beal (30 points, 2-3 3PT), Kuzma (15 points, 3-8 from 3-point range) and Spencer Dinwiddie (6 points, 2-5 from 3) hit multiple shots from long range. Dinwiddie helped seal the win with a big three in the final minute just as the Bucks were closing in.

The Wizards aimed to beef up their shooting in the offseason, but so far those plans haven't come to fruition. A few guys are shooting below their career averages and both Davis Bertans (ankle) and Thomas Bryant (ACL rehab) being hurt hasn't helped as they are two of the most accurate long-range marksmen on the team.

Caught Bucks at a good time

 

This season has not started off very well for the defending champs. After losing to the Wizards on Sunday, Milwaukee is now 4-6. They are also banged up as they played the Wizards without Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and Dante DiVincenzo.

The Wizards, of course, aren't exactly completely healthy themselves. In addition to Bertans and Bryant being out, Rui Hachimura (personal reasons) has yet to appear in a game this season. 

Still, a win over the Bucks is a good one and a victory that will probably look better and better with time. Washington has now collected wins over the Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, who met in the Eastern Conference Finals last year, plus the Boston Celtics (twice) and the Toronto Raptors. You never know which ones will come in handy come time for playoff seeding in the East.