The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wizards, Bucks go toe to toe, then Giannis Antetokounmpo takes over

Washington’s Markieff Morris takes a bit of a shove from Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton on Saturday night at Capital One Arena.
Washington’s Markieff Morris takes a bit of a shove from Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton on Saturday night at Capital One Arena. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

When the Milwaukee Bucks come to town, it's always a bad time to be down a perimeter player. With their length across the roster, the Bucks possess one of the lankiest teams in the NBA — as well as one of the best players in the league. So as Giannis Antetokounmpo went off for a big fourth quarter, the Washington Wizards had little to stop him, especially without forward Otto Porter Jr., who sat out with hip and back soreness.

Milwaukee snapped the Wizards' four-game winning streak, 110-103, at Capital One Arena as Antetokounmpo scored eight of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter and gave Milwaukee ­(21-17) the lead for good with a transition layup with 2:26 to play.

"He's a great player. I respect him, but, I mean, just keep a body in front of him. Don't let him get to where he wants to go," said Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter's replacement in the starting lineup who sometimes squared off against Antetokounmpo. "Make it difficult. That's how you stop him."

Oubre tried that plan in the closing seconds while defending Antetokounmpo. However, it didn't work.

Antetokounmpo measured up Oubre — just as he had done often against other defenders such as Markieff Morris — and drilled a pull-up jumper with 35.7 seconds remaining.

After Antetokounmpo's shot put the Bucks ahead by five, Tony Snell, another long-limbed Bucks forward, blocked Bradley Beal's three-point attempt.

Beal scored 20 points but did not shoot efficiently during a 7-for-19 night and encountered a painful moment in the fourth quarter when he was practically clotheslined by Milwaukee's Matthew Dellavedova.

With 7:24 to play, Beal was in the midst of going around Dellavedova in transition when the pesky Bucks guard all but horse-collared Beal, leaving him defenseless to fall on his back. Beal immediately popped up from the ground and confronted Dellavedova, who was ejected with a flagrant-two foul.

"It should never happen," Coach Scott Brooks said of Dellavedova's actions. "Those plays should never happen."

Nearly four years ago, Beal was asked about the best one-on-one defender he had faced in his young career. Beal thought about it but eventually named Dellavedova, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Great defender," Beal said then in an interview with Slam magazine. However, in the wake of the Saturday night incident, his description of Dellavedova was less complimentary.

"There's no place in the game for that," Beal said. "I don't care. There's a difference in making a play on the ball and wrapping your arms around somebody's neck. It was what it was. He fouled me. He got thrown out for it."

After the officials reviewed the play, Oubre waved goodbye to Dellavedova and Wizards big man Jason Smith motioned with his thumb to signal that he was out of the game. But the moment failed to galvanize the Wizards (23-17).

John Wall finished with 16 points and 16 assists but missed his final five shots and committed a pair of turnovers in the fourth quarter. As a team, Washington went cold in the final frame for the second consecutive night, going 5 for 19 from the field.

"You understand that Wall and Beal are going to be the focal point, and I thought that we were guarding those two. It wasn't just one-on-one. It was team defense," Bucks Coach Jason Kidd said. "Everybody helped each other and tried to make it as tough as possible."

Both teams had to travel into Washington to play this game on the second night of a back-to-back set. On Friday night, Milwaukee lost to the visiting Toronto Raptors, 129-110, while Washington made only two field goals in the fourth quarter against the host Memphis Grizzlies but still held on for a two-point victory.

The adrenaline, however, flowed early for the Wizards, who opened the game with strong ball movement and shot making. Also, Wall scored or assisted on 21 of the team's 32 points in the first quarter and made three of his opening five shots.

Though Washington continued to pile up assists in the first half, the strong start eventually waned. Wall couldn't find his shot until the third quarter, missing seven straight. Beal was off the mark with 2-for-7 shooting, and Washington lost its 11-point advantage as Milwaukee evened the score by halftime.

In the third quarter, the teams exchanged the lead 10 times, and the stalemate continued until the incident between Dellevadova and Beal, after which Milwaukee began to pull away.

"They are a good team. They are talented. They are athletic. They are defensive-minded," Brooks said of the Bucks. "It was a playoff game in January. Both teams left everything on the floor. Unfortunately, we didn't win the game. I'm disappointed we didn't win the game. Our guys are the same way. It was a chance to get on a nice little streak here, but now we have to bounce back, have a couple good days of practice and get ready for Utah" on Wednesday night.

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