The Washington Wizards get their first of two remaining opportunities to get into the win column in the NBA bubble when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
The short-handed Wizards (24-46) have been formally eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference, making a single win one of their few remaining goals.
Despite having faced a relatively soft schedule -- none of their opponents so far is currently seeded third or higher in its conference -- the Wizards often haven’t been competitive since the NBA restart. They have lost four games by double-digit margins.
The worst of the six came Sunday in a 121-103 loss to Oklahoma City, after which coach Scott Brooks spoke of the hardships created by the constant losing.
“It’s the art of coaching: You understand when you have to give them the hug and when you have to push them a little harder,” he told reporters. “I do both, because what we want to get to, it’s not going to be easy. What we want to get to, we can’t always give them the sunshine outlook. You’ve got to give them real facts.”
The facts are: In the six games, the Wizards have been outshot 47.9 percent to 43.5 overall and 36.1 percent to 27.8 on 3-pointers. To add insult to injury, they’ve committed an average of 15.2 turnovers to the opponents’ 14.2.
If there’s good news in facing the Bucks ... actually, there are two things.
First off, Milwaukee (55-16) has clinched the No. 1 seeding in the East, allowing it to go into coast mode in its final two regular-season matchups.
And secondly, if there were ever a good time for coast mode, it would be on the second night of a back-to-back, which is exactly where the Bucks find themselves on Tuesday.
They gave an honest effort in Monday’s 114-106 loss to Toronto, playing three of their five regular starters at least 25 minutes.
They did not, however, play Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out after having a tooth pulled.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer appeared more concerned with following bubble restrictions on Antetokounmpo’s trip to the dentist than the matchup with Toronto, the East’s No. 2 seed.
“The league has protocols as far as dealing with dental and situations like this that Giannis and our sports performance group were able to follow and adhere to,” he explained to reporters. “Very, very fortunate the league has thought through everything. He obviously needed some attention and was able to get it, and he’s going to be with us today and we’ll see about playing and when that’s going to happen.”
The Bucks, who have gone 2-4 in the bubble, wrap up their regular season Thursday against Memphis.
Milwaukee also limited Wes Matthews to two minutes in Monday’s loss, pulling him quickly as a precaution while he attempts to fully heal from groin and calf issues.
The Bucks and Wizards have met twice previously this season, with Milwaukee winning a pair of shootouts, 151-131 at home in January and 137-134 in overtime at Washington in February.
The Bucks’ Khris Middleton has scorched the Wizards for 51 and 40 points in the wins, yet was outscored in total points by Washington’s Bradley Beal (47 and 55), who has not played in the bubble because of a shoulder injury.
--Field Level Media
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