Bucks' task: Keep focus as trip continues at Wizards
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The Milwaukee Bucks, after beginning their three-game road trip with an impressive win, will look to maintain their focus during their next two stops.
The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks, winners of eight of nine, defeated the Houston Rockets 116-109 on Wednesday and face the Washington Wizards on Friday before ending the road swing Sunday in Atlanta.
Milwaukee (29-11) is in a stretch of 13 road games out 18 games before the All-Star break.
"(This win) will give us great momentum, great confidence," guard Malcolm Brogdon told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
"The key for us is to not take our foot off the gas when we play a team whose record is not as good as the Rockets. That's going to be the challenge, but I think we'll continue to step up to the challenge."
Brogdon was a key contributor against the Rockets, scoring 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
The Bucks were led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who came out with the win in a match-up of MVP candidates against Houston's James Harden. Harden had 42 points and 11 rebounds but missed all four of his shots in the final minutes.
Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 21 rebounds. He hit a key free throw and his tip-in of a miss by Khris Middleton lifted Milwaukee's lead to six points with 39.1 seconds left.
"He just does everything," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told the Journal-Sentinel regarding Antetokounmpo. "He has a huge impact on winning."
Washington (17-25) got 34 points from Bradley Beal, including 14 straight in the fourth quarter, in a 123-106 win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. The win snapped the Sixers' four-game winning streak and earned the Wizards a split of the back-to-back, home-and-home set.
Otto Porter Jr. came off the bench to add 23 points, his most since returning from a quadriceps injury this month, and Trevor Ariza had 17. Washington is 4-3 since losing John Wall for the season and is 2-1 this week, including a road win at Oklahoma City on Sunday following a loss in Miami.
"You can say we have," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said when asked if Washington is playing its best basketball.
"We had a tough road trip (against) three very, very good teams. Winning in Oklahoma is not easy to do. ... We're playing well but we got a lot to make up. We're so far behind. We just want to keep building and put ourselves in the position to maybe one day get to .500."
Washington pulled away when it opened the second quarter with a 16-2 run that gave it a 41-22 lead. The Wizards took their largest lead of the game, 88-62, on Ariza's layup with 3:53 left in the third quarter.
The Wizards shot 54.0 percent (47 of 87) from field against the Sixers, including a season-high 48.1 percent (13 of 27) from beyond the arc. Washington scored 19 points off 24 Philadelphia turnovers and recorded 16 steals, one shy of its season-high.
"Just being aggressive," Ariza said after the win.
"When we're aggressive throughout the whole game on both ends, we give ourselves a chance. When we keep teams from second-chance points, rebound the ball, pass the ball and play together, we're pretty good."
The Wizards are 12-7 at home while the Bucks are 10-7 on the road.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 10, 2019