Bucks-Wizards Preview

The Associated PressMarch 13, 2013

The Milwaukee Bucks have been playing much better on the road lately.

The Washington Wizards have definitely been a much more dangerous team in the nation's capital.

Milwaukee goes for its fifth road win in six tries on Wednesday night while the Wizards look for a 13th victory in their last 17 home games.

Back from a 2-1 Western road trip, the Bucks (32-30) lost for just the second time in eight games on Tuesday, 115-108 to Dallas.

Milwaukee still owns a commanding eight-game lead over Toronto for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but it missed a chance to make up ground on the two teams it's chasing - Boston and Atlanta, which both lost on Tuesday.

"Every time you lose a game now being in the position we are in, it has significance,'' coach Jim Boylan said. "We are trying to climb up and because we are trying to secure our spot, it definitely stings a little bit.''

Milwaukee opens a stretch of eight of 11 at home on Friday against league-best Miami, but first it'll look for a fourth win in its last five trips to the nation's capital.

The Bucks took advantage of the absence of John Wall and Nene to win 101-91 there on Nov. 9, but Washington (20-42) got revenge with those two back Feb. 11. Nene had 21 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in the Wizards' 102-90 win at the Bradley Center.

Rookie Bradley Beal led Washington with 28 points in that game after scoring a team-best 22 on Nov. 9, but the third overall pick is expected to miss a fifth consecutive game Wednesday with a sprained left ankle. Garrett Temple has started the last two in Beal's absence, totaling four points, five turnovers and nine fouls in 44 minutes.

"It could be a day. It could be a week (when Beal returns)," said coach Randy Wittman, whose team fell to a league-worst 5-25 on the road with Tuesday's 95-90 loss to Cleveland. "We'll just have to wait and see."

With or without Beal, the Wizards have a chance to continue their much-improve play at home.

Another big game from Wall would help. The third-year point guard had one of the best all-around offensive performances of his career on Tuesday, setting season highs with 27 points and 14 assists while matching his best rebounding effort of 2012-13 with seven.

Wall scored 14 points with 10 assists in last month's meeting, but he's shooting just 35.2 percent in his career versus Milwaukee - his worst against any East opponent.

Wall and the rest of the Wizards' backcourt also need to be prepared to work on defense, as Bucks guard Monta Ellis is riding his best offensive stretch of the season. He's scored 27.6 points per game - 8.3 more that his season average - in the last seven.

Ellis has averaged 23.5 points on 50 percent shooting in four games against Washington since joining Milwaukee.

Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings, who matched a season low with four points on Tuesday, has averaged 15.8 points in that same stretch against the Wizards - including a 3-for-17 shooting, seven-point effort in February.

Jennings was also ejected for the first time in his career in the November meeting for shoving Beal, who was tossed for knocking down Ellis on a breakaway in the final minute.