Sun, 31 May 2020

Bucks trying to get better as they visit Wizards

Field Level Media
24 Feb 2020, 17:19 GMT+10

The Milwaukee Bucks can hang their hat on a plethora of scintillating performances this season, and Giannis Antetokounmpo has had his sizable hand in most of them.

Arguably the best effort put forth by the Bucks came late last month against the Washington Wizards, a team they will visit on Mondaynight.

Khris Middleton highlighted a career-high 51-point performance with seven 3-pointers as Milwaukee erupted for a season-best point total in a wire-to-wire 151-131 win over Washington on Jan. 28.

The Bucks scored a franchise-record 88 points in the first half and shot a blistering 55.6 percent from the field, 51.4 percent from 3-point range and 91.4 percent from the free-throw line.

Impressive numbers to be certain -- and they did it without Antetokounmpo, who sat out with an ailing right shoulder.

Milwaukee is in the midst of a sterling 16-2 run and owns an NBA-best record of 48-8 heading into Monday's rematch. They have already clinched a playoff berth too, doing so without playing Sunday when the Wizards lost to the Chicago Bulls.

Even more bad news for the Wizards: The reigning league MVP is expected to suit up with the mindset of improving his game.

"I'm just trying to get better, because I know that my team wants me to be better, and I know when getting better, I can help my team win easily, put them in the right spots easily," said Antetokounmpo, who collected 31 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists in Milwaukee's 119-98 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday.

"... We've got 26 more games until the playoffs. Just try to take as much of these 26 games, play good basketball, learn as much as possible, take notes, watch clips, so I can make my mind stronger and smarter -- and that's pretty much it."

A scary notion indeed, considering Antetokounmpo boasts team-leading averages in points (30.0), rebounds (13.6) and assists (5.8) on a club that has recorded 18 20-point victories this season.

"That's what we want him to do," fellow All-Star Middleton said of Antetokounmpo. "We want him to play aggressive and prove that he's the best player on the court every night, and we're going to be right behind him backing him up."

Middleton has returned from the All-Star break with a flourish, making 21 of 33 shots to total 53 points to go along with 17 rebounds in two games.

Washington answered a promising 5-2 stretch before the All-Star break with back-to-back setbacks to Cleveland and Chicago, much to the chagrin of coach Scott Brooks.

"I don't think I've ever been on a team that gave up 16 'and-ones' in two nights. It's disappointing," Brooks said. "We talk about growing and playing with some toughness. Last two nights just wasn't the case ... and the 'and-ones' were about as soft as you can get."

Bradley Beal, who initially had a season-high 47 points in the first meeting with Milwaukee, did himself six better for a career-best total of 53 in the Wizards' 126-117 loss to the Bulls.

The 26-year-old Beal made 15 of 27 shots from the floor and 18 of 20 from the free-throw line to move past Jeff Malone into second place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.

--Field Level Media

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