The Wizards beat the Bucks for their fifth straight win


MILWAUKEE. With his surging team closing in on a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Washington Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. has talked the past few days about the need to play with urgency to quickly make up for lost ground.

The Milwaukee Bucks were happy to help on Sunday.

Washington’s 118-95 victory was its fifth straight, its longest winning streak of the season and its second straight against a team playing at full strength. After knocking off the Orlando Magic on Friday, the Wizards beat a Bucks team without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee soreness), Jrue Holiday (non-Covid illness) and Khris Middleton (knee soreness).

Without Bradley Beal (sore left hamstring) for the third straight game, and why push him back against such a thin opponent? — The Wizards did what they had to do again. Washington (17-21) blew a 26-point lead in the second quarter, taking advantage of Antetokounmpo’s absence and supplementing that success with Rui Hachimura’s jumpers. He led all scorers with 26 points on 11-for-18 shooting as the Wizards rolled to a 72-26 lead.

“Obviously we caught some teams that got hit, but we’ve been on the other side of it,” Unseld said. “We can’t decide who’s available, who plays, it’s more about us. We have to go about our business, and for the most part we have.”

From last week. A mostly healthy roster should help the Wizards find their form defensively

The Wizards finished 10th in the East, the last playoff spot. They spent Sunday night in relegation territory for the second straight game. Their 18 turnovers were too many, but the Wizards could afford to if it meant 29 assists on 50 field goals. Washington finished with six scorers in double figures.

Kyle Kuzma recorded the second triple-double of his career with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. Danny Avdia scored 11 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. Center Daniel Gafford scored 17 points, four rebounds and four assists.

“[Kuzma] has been a big-time playmaker for us,” Unseld said, “making it easy in the open floor [and] playing out of the post. His pace to the floor has been really good for us, even after plays. So he does a little bit of everything, and I think that’s important. Brad is out. he and [Kristaps Porzingis] must bear the burden offensively. But the fact that we’re still trying to play through them and they’re willing to share the ball, I think, speaks volumes.”

Porzingis had 22 points and five rebounds after a jaw-dropping first-quarter technical with Joe Ingles. Corey Kispert, who started in Beale’s place, scored 12 points. The Wizards ran the offense all night and didn’t shoot below 50 percent after the first quarter.

Bobby Portis led five Bucks scorers in double figures with 19 points and 10 rebounds, but Milwaukee (23-13) was mediocre without Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday. He shot 35.4 percent from the field and 26.5 percent from three-point range. The teams will meet again on Tuesday night.

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ win.

Kuzma’s other triple-double also came with Washington. On February 10, he had 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists against Brooklyn.

“My teammates made shots,” Kuzma said. “Obviously, I probably made them up, but they did a great job. Rui did a great job attacking every time. Gough did a phenomenal job just being ready at points.”

Gafford’s 17-point effort was followed by 11 against Orlando and 14 against Phoenix while starting alongside Porzingis. Gafford totaled seven blocks over those two games, but had just one Sunday, though he complemented it with four assists. His 13 points in the first quarter tied his career high.

Sunday’s game was just the fifth time this season the Bucs didn’t score at least 100 points. And it was Washington’s first win in Milwaukee since Feb. 27, 2018, snapping a five-game losing streak.

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