The Milwaukee Bucks just finished taking out one of the hottest teams in the NBA as superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo got the better of Houston's James Harden in a battle of MVP candidates. The Bucks will try to avoid a letdown when they make the second stop of a three-game trip by visiting the Washington Wizards on Friday.

Harden scored 42 points on Wednesday but Antetokounmpo collected 27 points, a career-high 21 rebounds and five assists while leading Milwaukee to a 116-109 victory. "I definitely think it's our belief inside this locker room, and a lot just around the league, that we have the best player in the league right here," Bucks center Brook Lopez told reporters of Antetokounmpo. "He does it in so many ways. He makes so many of his players better. He's all over the court constantly. It's so impressive to watch every night." The Wizards are trying to make their way back into the playoff picture in the East behind their own All-Star, shooting guard Bradley Beal, who guided the team to wins in four of the last six games. "We're playing well, but we have a lot to make up," Washington coach Scott Brooks told reporters. "We're so far behind. We just want to put ourselves in position to one day get to .500."

TV: 7 p.m. ET, FS Wisconsin (Milwaukee), NBCS Washington LINE: Bucks -5.5 

ABOUT THE BUCKS (29-11): Milwaukee owns the fewest losses in the NBA thanks in large part to Antetokounmpo, who is Harden's closest challenger in the race for the MVP award halfway through the season. "To be honest with you, all I care about right now is getting better, helping my team win," Antetokounmpo told reporters. "And (becoming MVP is) going to take care of itself. I know that one day it might happen. I don't know if I'm there yet, but I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there, because that's what I want to be." Antetokounmpo is averaging 26.6 points on 58.1 percent shooting, 12.8 rebounds and six assists.

ABOUT THE WIZARDS (17-25): Beal is leading the team in the absence of point guard John Wall (heel) and scored 34 points in Wednesday's 123-106 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers. "It's just extra effort," Beal told reporters of the team's improved play of late. ... It's kind of that mentality of don't let it be. Don't be that guy that is relaxing on defense. Don't be that guy that is getting beat." Beal is getting some help off the bench of late from forward Otto Porter Jr., who is averaging 15.4 points in five games since returning from a knee injury.


1. Bucks G Malcolm Brogdon averaged 22.5 points on 17-of-26 shooting over the last two games.

2. Washington SF Trevor Ariza scored 17 points on Wednesday after totaling six points on 2-of-16 shooting in the previous two contests.

3. The road team took each of the last five in the series.

PREDICTION: Bucks 119, Wizards 108  Bet Now

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