Middleton’s stellar marksmanship key in Bucks win

Milwaukee's Khris Middleton poured in 30 points on Saturday night, guiding the Bucks to a key win over Washington.

Benny Sieu/Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Once he secured the offensive rebound, Zaza Pachulia knew he needed to get the ball back to Khris Middleton. With the way Middleton was going Saturday night, he wasn’t going to miss two open looks on one possession.

Middleton’s 3-pointer off Pachulia’s offensive rebound broke a tie with 40.8 seconds to play, as Milwaukee snapped its four-game losing streak with a crucial 91-85 victory over the Washington Wizards at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

"I tell you what, he missed the one," Pachulia said. "It is Khris Middleton. I’ll put everything I have on him making the second one, especially with the night he had tonight."

Middleton, who finished with a career-high 30 points, had just missed a good look at a 3-point attempt in the final minute. After beating Marcin Gortat to the rebound, Pachulia fought off a double team attempt from Nene.

Because Nene went to double, Middleton was left open in the corner. It was a gamble that proved costly to the Wizards, as Pachulia was able to get enough on a one-handed pass while falling out of bounds.

The result was Middleton’s sixth made 3-pointer of the night, which also matched a career high.

"That was a huge play by Z," Middleton said. "I missed the first one. He fought for the offensive rebound, fought the double team off to make the pass out. A lot of credit to him. He did a lot of work for me."

Middleton helped the Bucks to a 30-19 lead after one by scoring 14 points in the first quarter. He hit his first five attempts from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.

When Milwaukee’s offense evaporated in the third quarter — which allowed Washington to erase a 17-point deficit — Middleton stemmed the tied.

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After John Wall set Rasaul Butler up for an easy dunk to give the Wizards a 78-76 lead with 3:21 to play, Middleton answered with a 3-pointer. A fluky a triple from Drew Gooden gave Washington an 81-79 advantage. However, Middleton was there to bail out the Bucks with a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. With O.J. Mayo injured and Jared Dudley in a shooting slump, the Bucks need Middleton to score and shoot a high percentage.

Middleton is averaging 18.0 points and shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the arc in the nine games since Milwaukee shook up its roster by trading Brandon Knight to Phoenix.

"We just need him to play his game," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "We’re not looking for him to do anything more. The ball will find him. He’s having a heck of a season.

"He’s not a secret anymore in this league. We don’t need him to do more. We just need him to be himself. You can see that he’s growing with confidence and playing both ends extremely well."

The win was a crucial one for Milwaukee after it was swept on a four-game west coast swing. Instead of letting their losing streak reach five, the Bucks gained a game on the team right above them in the standings.

"We’re going through the process like any young team," Kidd said. "We’re not going to win all 82. We need to learn from each game, win or lose. We learned a lot about ourselves on that west coast trip. Going into that last game, we could have been a no-show, but we fought.

"With this process, we are learning. This was a great game to come back and get a win at home to start a homestand."

The Wizards have now lost eight of their last 10, leaving the fifth seed within reach of the Bucks if they can get hot late. With 20 games to play, Milwaukee is 1 1/2 games behind Washington for the No. 5 spot in the Eastern Conference.

"We needed this win," Pachulia said. "They did too. After the road trip we had, it didn’t matter who we played. We had to forget about the standings and just get a win so we can start feeling good about ourselves."

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