Wizards brace for two-game set with rising Bucks

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The Washington Wizards, looking to shake off a slump of four losses in five games, face a tough challenge the next two games.

The improving Milwaukee Bucks arrive in Washington for consecutive matchups against the Wizards on Saturday and Monday.

The Bucks are coming off a 134-101 blowout of the New York Knicks on Thursday, the Bucks' first outing since the NBA All-Star break. The victory was Milwaukee's seventh in the past eight games.

All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against the Knicks, his fifth triple-double of the season.

The Bucks also got 21 points off the bench from Bryn Forbes, all from behind the 3-point arc. Forbes went 7 of 7 from long distance, improving his season 3-point success rate to 47.1 percent.

"I've played with great shooters," Antetokounmpo said in his postgame press conference. "But Bryn? He can make tough shots."

Forbes produced his second-highest point total of the season. He scored 23 points and knocked down 5 of 9 beyond the arc Feb. 23 against Minnesota.

With a scoring average of 9.6 points per game, Forbes is just below being the seventh Buck averaging in double figures for the season.

Behind Antetokounmpo's 28.9 points per game, Khris Middleton's 20.4, Jrue Holiday's 15.1 and more than 10 apiece from the trio of Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez and Donte DiVincenzo, the Bucks rank second in the NBA at 119.2 points per game.

Washington, in contrast, relies heavily on the duo of Bradley Beal (32.1 ppg) and Russell Westbrook (20.4) to carry the scoring load. Just four Wizards who have played in more than 10 games this season are averaging in double figures, with an eight-points-per-game drop from Westbrook's output to third-leading scorer Rui Hachimura's 12.3.

Beal comes into the weekend leading the NBA in scoring, but he finished well below his average in Washington's two games since the All-Star break. He scored 21 points Wednesday in the Wizards' 127-112 road loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, then had 19 points Friday as Washington fell 127-101 to the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.

Beal was questionable heading into the Friday game due to a knee injury, but he played 29 minutes and shot 8 of 13 from the floor.

"He wasn't moving like he normally moves, but he felt good enough to get out there," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said postgame.

Brooks added that Beal could have scored 30 points had he played more minutes. The combination of Beal's knee and Washington digging a sizable hole early reduced the All-Star guard's playing time.

Falling behind early has been a recurring issue Washington seeks to address.

Philadelphia outscored Washington 32-15 in the first quarter. It was a similar story Wednesday, with the Grizzlies jumping ahead 35-26 through 12 minutes.

"We need to learn how to hit teams first, even if it means fouling ... 50 times," Beal said after the Friday game. "We got to let them know that nothing's easy out there. Our physicality and approach on defense has to get better."

As for its defense, Washington is next to last in the NBA in points allowed at 119.6 per game.

--Field Level Media