WASHINGTON (AP) — Rookie Bradley Beal insists his winless Washington Wizards are not getting discouraged.
Not yet, anyway.
"That's one thing that we most definitely try to avoid," the No. 3 overall pick in the June draft said. "I mean, once we get that, we hang our heads low, then we come out sluggish, and then teams really start beating us. And then we just get into the 'I don't care anymore' mode."
Even a 12-0 head start against the Milwaukee Bucks and Beal's additional aggressiveness — 22 points plus a flagrant foul that got him ejected in the final minute — were not enough for the Wizards to avoid falling to 0-4.
Monta Ellis scored 22 points, and the Bucks quickly erased an early deficit before pulling away with a 13-point run bridging the third and fourth quarters to beat the Wizards 101-91 on Friday night, when Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings also was sent to the locker room for shoving Beal.
With the outcome no longer in doubt, Beal knocked Ellis to the court on a breakaway. As Beal leaned over to offer Ellis a hand to help him up, Jennings ran up and pushed Beal.
"Who knows what their coach told them to do? 'Fight through every play.' It ended up in a bad situation," Ellis said.
Jennings' take? "I was just trying to protect my teammate," he said. "I didn't think I was going to get kicked out for it."
And Beal's? "It was just a foul."
When he was asked about his first back-to-back set of NBA games, with Washington playing at the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, Beal smiled and said: "If I play tomorrow."
His club is one of only two in the 30-franchise league that will enter the weekend without a victory. The other? The Detroit Pistons are 0-6 after a 105-94 loss at Oklahoma City on Friday.
"We just need a win. We need a win," said A.J. Price, who is starting at point guard for Washington while John Wall sits out with a knee injury. "We need a win as much as possible."
Washington is without its top two players, Wall — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft — and center Nene. Wall is expected to be sidelined until next month, while there is no definitive timetable for Nene's return from a foot problem.
The Bucks, meanwhile, avoided what coach Scott Skiles said would have been a "bad loss" and improved to 3-1. They were coming off their first defeat, against Memphis on Wednesday.
At the outset Friday, Milwaukee was as bad as can be, and Washington broke out to a 12-0 lead, thanks in part to an efficient fast break that produced eight points. The Bucks, meanwhile, missed their first five shots and began the game 1 for 8, the only basket a 3-pointer by Tobias Harris.
"We've got to get to the bottom of why we start games so sluggish," Skiles said.
Eventually, Milwaukee got going, led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter and 56-47 at halftime, paced by Ilyasova with 11 points, and Ellis and Mike Dunleavy with 10 apiece.
The Wizards used a 14-2 stretch to lead 63-62 midway through the third quarter. The game was tied entering the final 10 seconds of that period, but Ekpe Udoh's three-point play gave Milwaukee a 75-72 edge entering the fourth.
That began a segment in which Udoh and Beno Udrih scored 11 consecutive points, before Milwaukee's Larry Sanders hit a hook shot for an 85-72 lead.
"We were on 72, it felt like, for eternity," Washington coach Randy Wittman said, then lamented that only his starters or his reserves — but not both sets of players — play well each game.
"We need everybody," Wittman said. "We're not good enough right now to afford off-nights by a group and survive it."
Notes: Washington's Trevor Ariza (15) and Emeka Okafor (11) combined for 26 points, matching their output from the team's first three games. ... The Wizards started last season 0-8 and eventually fired coach Flip Saunders when they were an NBA-worst 2-15. ... Bucks F Drew Gooden was inactive. ... Milwaukee began a stretch of three games in four days. It hosts Boston on Saturday night, then heads to Philadelphia on Monday.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich