Bucks-Wizards Preview

The Associated Press

Though it's been a while since the Washington Wizards had a winning record, a date with the lowly Milwaukee Bucks could help them get there.

The surging Wizards look to move above .500 for the first time in four years Friday night when they host a Milwaukee team looking to avoid its eighth straight road loss.

John Wall was a freshman at Kentucky when Washington opened the 2009-10 season by winning two of its first three games. That's the last time the franchise has been above .500, as the Wizards have gone 105-222 since.

Although they appeared to be on their way to yet another losing season during a 2-7 start, the Wizards turned things around by winning seven of nine.

''These guys lost a lot of games last year,'' said center Marcin Gortat, who was acquired from Phoenix in October. "Everybody's excited we're finally winning.''

Without top scorer Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza had 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting and Wall finished with 16 points and 13 assists in Monday's 98-80 victory over Orlando that got the Wizards (9-9) to the break-even mark with their fifth straight home win.

Beal, averaging 20.6 points, is expected to miss at least another week after sitting out five games because of a leg injury. Ariza has stepped up since Beal went down, averaging 17.8 points and hitting 14 of 29 from 3-point range.

''It's just something we knew we could do. We're not satisfied,'' Ariza said. ''We want to continue this winning thing, make it a tradition around here.''

The Wizards have improved on the defensive end, giving up 94.8 points per game on 44.6 percent shooting in the last nine. They gave up an average of 104.6 points and allowed opponents to shoot 48.3 percent over the first nine contests.

Washington should be able to continue that defensive effort against a Milwaukee team that ranks near the bottom of the NBA in scoring (90.3) and field-goal percentage (41.7).

The league-worst Bucks (3-15), who have lost 13 of 14, shot 39.6 percent from the field in Wednesday's 105-98 loss to visiting Detroit.

Ersan Ilyasova has missed seven games because of injuries, including a sore ankle, but he was a bright spot with a season-high 22 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

''It's the first time I feel healthy. My ankle is getting better,'' said Ilyasova, who has averaged 17.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in his last three meetings with the Wizards. "We have to find a way to play much better. We have to come together and find a way to win games.''

O.J. Mayo, averaging a team-high 14.8 points, finished with seven on 2-of-8 shooting. He's played well in recent meetings with Washington, scoring 20.3 per game and shooting 24 of 48 in his last three.

Mayo led the Bucks with 21 points and hit a tying 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left to force overtime in a 100-92 loss to visiting Washington on Nov. 27.

Gortat had a season-high 25 points on 11-of-12 shooting and eight rebounds, while Wall scored 19 and Martell Webster added 18 for the Wizards.

Washington has won the last three meetings.

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