The Milwaukee Bucks have the league’s worst record at 15-64 but they have given the Wizards problems all season.
The Wizards are 2-1 against Milwaukee this season, with both wins at Bradley Center. They lost in overtime, 109-105, at Verizon Center on Dec. 6, when Nene was forced to leave early because of a sore Achilles’ tendon. Nene will rest on Saturday after scoring 17 points in 20 minutes of the Wizards’ 96-86 victory over the Orlando Magic a night earlier.
Two of Washington’s three games with the Bucks have been decided in overtime. When the teams met last month in Milwaukee, the Bucks rallied from a 28-point first-half deficit to get within three before Bradley Beal made two huge shots to carry Washington to a 114-107 victory.
“Doesn’t matter record wise,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “Sometimes, there’s just certain matchups with certain teams, year-in, year-out, it’s going to be a battle. This has been one of those teams. As I try to tell our guys. Certain teams, whether it’s a great record. Or a bad record, it’s going to be a dogfight. They’re a little carefree. They play three games and they’re going home. So you know they’re getting up and down and sometimes that’s the most dangerous team.”
Trevor Ariza has been in a slump, failing to hit a three-pointer in any of his previous three games. But he has had some success against the Bucks. In three games against Milwaukee, Ariza is averaging 21.3 points and shooting 52.1 percent from beyond the three-point line.
Before the game, Ariza, John Wall, Marcin Gortat and Martell Webster watched the final seconds of the Wizards’ last game against the Bucks. Ariza had 28 points but wasted a chance to get 30 when he missed two free throws late. After Ariza missed the first free throw, the ball bounced his direction and an angry Ariza kicked it, which made his teammates laugh.
The Wizards (41-38) are back in the driver’s seat for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference after Charlotte lost on Friday in Boston. “For us to be in the position we’re in, back up to six, that’s a good feeling for us,” Beal said. “Hopefully we can maintain this and get some wins.”
Marcin Gortat cautioned his teammates about getting too excited about their current position. “We still got three games to go,” he said. “It’s not like we’re already at home and we’re celebrating the sixth spot, we still got a lot of games to play.”
Wittman gave rookie Otto Porter Jr. a rare opportunity to play meaningful minutes in the win over the Magic, which meant that Webster was the odd man out in the rotation. When asked why Webster said, Wittman said, “Can a coach make a coaching decision? I went with a couple of different things to kind of jolt us. I wasn’t happy with what was happening out there. He took great opportunity, he’s going to be a great player in this league for a long time. You never know when that bell’s going to ring. I put him, he gave us, a little bit of intangibles, everything. I always tell our guys, guys that are out of our rotation, that’s part of learning how to be a professional and I was really pleased with how he handled it.”
Wittman added that the Wizards can’t worry too much about playoff seeding right now. “If you don’t take care of yourselves, you’re never in the driver’s seat,” he said. “Worry about our business and what’s at hand for us, you don’t have to worry about anything else. That’s all I want them to do.”
(TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus. Radio: WJFK-106.7 MF, WFED-1500 AM).
Here’s some reading to get you prepared for tonight’s big game: