WASHINGTON — In the early part of the new season, the Washington Wizards are not only exceeding expectations but making right some wrongs done to them by teams who have had their way with Washington over the past few seasons. The defending NBA champions were next in the Wizards sights, and an electric start and a well-executed finish made sure the Wizards continued their winning ways.
Bradley Beal scored 30 points as the Wizards shot almost 51 percent from the field in their 101-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at Capital One Area on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Kuzma had 15 points and 10 rebounds while Montrezl Harrell scored 15 off the bench as Washington snapped an eight-game losing streak against the Bucks. In Washington’s home victory against the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, the Wizards snapped a four-game losing streak in that series.
“I think we’ve been able to pull together relatively quickly with so many pieces,” said Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr. “It’s a lot to ask but for the most part, our guys have been great with our effort and locked in with what we are trying to do.”
The early-evening tipoff on a weekend might not have been the ideal setting to bring as many fans out to the arena, but a visit from the world champions created a buzz, and Washington matched the hype on the off as it scored 12 consecutive points to start the contest, capped off by a Kuzma three-pointer. At the end of the game, with the Wizards holding on to a 98-94 lead, some crisp ball movement beat the Bucks’ double team of Beal, and the possession ended with a Spencer Dinwiddie three from the left wing with 19.6 seconds remaining to give the Wizards the 101-94 lead that they ended up holding for the rest of the game.
“I feel like I played a playoff game tonight,” Beal said.
Any game against the previous season’s champion will carry extra juice, and after the early knockout blow delivered by the Wizards, Milwaukee responded by scoring the next nine points, and Milwaukee eventually up leading 52-49 at the half.
The second quarter, however, was the only stanza in which Milwaukee shot over 40 percent, as their poor shooting — 39.4 percent, on 37-of-94 field goals — did them in, especially in the third quarter when Washington outscored the Bucks 33-19. While the Bucks made just eight field goals on 33 percent shooting, Washington was 14-for25, with Daniel Gafford making all five of his shots in a 10-point quarter while Harrell made both of his as Washington controlled the paint on offense.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 29 points and 18 rebounds as Milwaukee was without forward Khris Middleton, who is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, for a fourth consecutive game.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Yusuf Abdullah. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 18 pictures in total.