The Washington Wizards lost to the Bucks 112-98 in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
Better, but still a loss
Now 50 games into their 2021-22 season, the Wizards continue to be a tough team to get an accurate read on, which should help make for an interesting trade deadline next week. Just when they were seemingly at their lowest point, and in their first game after losing Bradley Beal to injury, Washington put up a good fight on the road against the defending-champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Now, they still lost. Let's not get too carried away here. This was at-best a moral victory because the Wizards are now losers of a season-high six straight games. They have dropped seven of eight overall.
Their six straight losses mark their longest losing streak since the Orlando bubble in August of 2020. It is their longest non-bubble losing streak since 2015.
The Wizards trailed by as many as 17 in this game and didn't take their first lead until Rui Hachimura swished a three with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter. They kept pushing into the final minutes before superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo took over. He had a triple-double with 33 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists and two blocks.
Beal was out with a ligament injury to his left wrist. He will miss at least the next three games as well, leading the Wizards up to the Feb. 10 trade deadline where a lot could change. They are now four games under .500 for the first time this season, at 23-27.
Dinwiddie had a rough night
One storyline this season has been the awkward fit between Beal and Spencer Dinwiiddie in the Wizards backcourt. Part of the equation has been how well Dinwiddie has played in games Beal has been absent, but that didn't carry over into this one. Dinwiddie had a game to forget with seven points on 2-for-9 shooting, though he was able to knock down some threes in the second half to keep the Wizards in it.
Dinwiddie was held scoreless in the first half. He didn't get his first shot to go down until there was 5:08 left in the third quarter, it was a free throw. He didn't make his first field goal until there was 3:28 to go in the third. Dinwiddie was settling for mostly threes, which was a departure from some of his best games when Beal has been out of the lineup, when it seemed like he was more free to attack the rim.
Another so-so night from 3
One of the more surprising developments for the Wizards this season is just how bad they are at shooting from the outside. They came into this game dead-last in threes made per game (10.1) and 28th in percentage (32.4). Even now that they have all of their players back (minus Beal at the moment), they still can't knock them down. Against Milwaukee, the Wizards shot marginally better at 12-for-35 (34.3%) from long range, but it was still nothing to write home about.
3-point shooting is clearly one of the Wizards' most glaring weaknesses as they approach the Feb. 10 trade deadline. While one could argue they have a chance to improve over time with the players they have, the sample size continues to grow. It also illustrates a great irony about this team. They have invested a ton in analytics, yet may be the worst team in the league at shooting threes. That has to bother the front office and be top of mind as they aim to improve the roster moving forward.
Kuzma was great
The Wizards would have been dead in the water early in this game if it weren't for Kyle Kuzma, who continues to be a bright spot even as the Wizards struggle as a whole. Kuzma had a monster game of 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. He shot 9-for-19 from the field and 3-for-8 from deep.
The Wizards shot 35% from the field in the first half and had seven turnovers in the second quarter alone. They only scored 40 points in the first half, but they cut a 13-point lead down to five in the third quarter with Kuzma leading the way. He had 12 points in the third quarter on 5-of-7 shooting, including two threes. Kuzma did a nice job attacking off the dribble, looking for his own shot and setting up others. One of their first baskets in the third quarter was a lob from Kuzma to Montrezl Harrell on a drive into the lane.
While the Wizards could justify trading just about any of their players at the deadline, given how things are going, Kuzma certainly seems like one to hold on to.
Bryant got hurt
The hits keep coming for the Wizards, who saw Thomas Bryant leave in the third quarter after rolling his right ankle. He stepped on the shoe of Grayson Allen and immediately fell to the ground in obvious pain. He left for the locker room and did not return. Perhaps the team just played it safe given Bryant was playing in just his ninth game back from ACL surgery on his other leg. Bryant left with five points, one rebound and one assist in 16 minutes.
With Bryant out of the picture, that paved the way for Daniel Gafford to see the floor for the first time since being benched. He did not appear in their last game on Saturday or in the first half against Milwaukee. He is evidently out of the regular rotation at the moment, but was able to get some run as an injury replacement. Gafford had a lot of trouble defending Antetokounmpo and finished with a modest stat-line of two points and two rebounds in six minutes, as they relied heavily on Harrell down the stretch. Harrell was hot with 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting.