The Washington Wizards learned roughly 90 minutes before tip-off that they wouldn’t have to contend with Giannis Antetokounmpo when Milwaukee Coach Mike Budenholzer revealed the Bucks phenom would be inactive with soreness in his right quadriceps and a left hip contusion.
The absence of one of the MVP front-runners left the team that owned the best winning percentage in the NBA entering Friday night without its leader in scoring, rebounding and assists.
His absence also played a large role in allowing the Wizards to thrive during a 113-106 triumph at Capital One Arena. Washington matched a franchise record by making 18 of 33 three-pointers and got the first career triple-double from Tomas Satoransky.
The point guard finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, the last of which came on an alley-oop pass to Bradley Beal with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter to push Washington’s lead back to 10.
“I was saying Brad had one before, and for a shooter it’s tough to get it,” Satoransky said. “I’m more organizing the team, and I think I had a lot of good numbers from the beginning [of the game]. Rebounds, assists, shots, so you always have more opportunities when you have a good start.”
Beal scored a game-high 32 points and Jeff Green added 20, with all four of his three-pointers coming in the fourth quarter, to give the Wizards (18-25) their second straight victory over an Eastern Conference contender. They beat fourth-place Philadelphia, 123-106, on Wednesday night.
The closest Milwaukee (29-12) came in the fourth quarter was 88-85 on Tony Snell’s three-pointer with 10:40 to play.
The Wizards countered with Chasson Randle’s layup and Green’s second three-pointer and never led by fewer than five points down the stretch.
Every Wizards starter scored at least 11 points in front of an announced crowd of 17,996.
Khris Middleton led the Bucks with 25 points.
“We know he’s one of the top, if not the top player in the league right now,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said of Antetokounmpo. “He’s playing good basketball, but I don’t look — and I know our guys don’t look — [at] injuries, nor do we complain about our injuries.”
A 10-point halftime lead for the Wizards evaporated quickly thanks in large part to Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe, who scored 12 points in the third quarter, including a three-pointer that knotted the score at 63 with 6:59 to play, capping an 8-0 burst.
But Washington got consecutive three-pointers from Otto Porter Jr. and a three-pointer from Trevor Ariza (20 points) for an 80-72 lead minutes later. Ariza made another three-pointer with 1:01 to play in the third quarter, and the Wizards entered the final frame in front 85-82.
“With or without Giannis, that’s a good team,” Beal said. “They play extremely hard, are well coached, very disciplined. There was no relaxing from us at all. You could see we were up double digits in the first quarter, and they came back easily. It was just a matter of we have to stay dedicated, keep our foot on the gas.”
This marked the third game Antetokounmpo has missed this season, and the Bucks had won the first two — throttling the Kawhi Leonard-less Toronto Raptors, 124-109, on Oct. 29, and then handling Cleveland, 108-92, on Dec. 10.
Milwaukee has been thriving all season defensively, entering the weekend with the third-best defensive rating in the league (104.2). Only the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers own a better defensive rating than the Bucks, who have lost just three times in the past month.
In addition, the Bucks had the third-best offensive rating in the league (113.5) thanks to Antetokounmpo and also to the development of Brook Lopez, a 7-foot center, as a three-point shooter. They are the only club in the top five in the NBA in both offensive and defensive rating.
Lopez opened the scoring with a three-pointer from well beyond the top of the arc, but the Wizards controlled much of the first half, leading by double figures most the way behind 15 points in the first quarter from Beal with defensive stalwart Malcolm Brogdon, among others, guarding him.
Washington, which scored 40 points in the first quarter for the second time this season, has been leaning on Beal even more than usual since all-star guard John Wall had season-ending heel surgery. Wall has missed the Wizards’ past eight games; Beal has averaged 28.6 points over that stretch.
“You can see we’re not giving up on the plays, even when we’re playing bad on offense,” said Satoransky, who received a water-bottle shower from teammates in the locker room after the game. “We were playing hard, and that allows us to stay in the game and catch rhythm on offense.”