The Milwaukee Bucks return home from Paris with the NBA’s best record and on an eight-game winning streak, and now host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
Milwaukee became the first team to reach 40 wins on the season with a 116-103 defeat of the Charlotte Hornets Friday at AccorHotels Arena in France.
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo posted 30 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in the win. With the travel to Paris and fanfare leading up to the game, Milwaukee faced a three-day layoff that Antetokounmpo cited when discussing a slow start against the Hornets.
“That’s not an excuse,” Antetokounmpo said in the postgame news conference. “We started the game, we (weren’t) playing the best game, not playing the play we usually play. Not moving the ball as much.
“Hopefully, we can learn from this and the situation we put ourselves in,” he added. “They’re not going to just give us the game, we’ve got to take the game and win.”
The Bucks trailed Charlotte at halftime, but Antetokounmpo said the play of the bench in the third quarter gave Milwaukee a vital spark.
George Hill scored 16 points, and Donte DiVincenzo added eight points and seven rebounds for the game. The duo of Hill and DiVincenzo have been key contributors in reserve roles all season, adding 9.9 and 8.8 points per game to the balanced and most prolific offensive attack in the NBA.
Milwaukee comes home not only with the best record in the league, but also the highest-scoring offense at 119.3 points per game.
While the Bucks face another four-day layoff returning stateside, they will get the opportunity to shake off any jet lag against a Washington defense that ranks worst in the NBA at 120.6 points allowed per game.
The Wizards dropped a 152-133 decision at Atlanta on Sunday. In its last three losses, Washington allowed 152, 134 and 140 points.
All three of those games have been on the road, and two during a four-game road swing that ends with Tuesday’s contest.
At the heart of some of Washington’s struggles has been the variety of injuries sidelining players throughout the season. All-Star John Wall is not expected to play at all this season, the result of a torn Achilles’ tendon.
Promising rookie Rui Hachimura has been sidelined since Dec. 31 with a groin injury, and Moritz Wagner is out with an ankle injury.
Sunday’s game, which Wizards guard Isaiah Thomas told NBC Sports Washington he felt should have been canceled, was played under the pall of Kobe Bryant’s death earlier that day in a helicopter accident.
“I knew it was gonna be tough for the whole league because we all grew up watching him. This was somebody we grew up watching,” Bradley Beal told the The Athletic afterward. “He was our (Michael) Jordan, so to speak. Hell, half of us got the chance to play with him and play against him, so I know it hits home with everybody around the league.”
Tuesday marks Milwaukee’s first game since Bryant’s death.
–Field Level Media