Image Credit: @dallasmavs twitter
On Thursday, the Dallas Mavericks played the Milwaukee Bucks as they close out their mini two game road trip. The Mavericks were hit with a Covid-19 outbreak that resulted in cancellation with the New Orleans Pelicans but were able to travel to Charlotte once they were cleared to do so by the NBA. The brief pause allowed Kristaps Porzingis to buy time to return to the court and did so in Charlotte. The Mavericks are looking to keep their four game winning streak alive that began by Willie Cauley-Stein being inserted into the starting lineup. This will be a matchup between the back-to-back reigning NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and 2020-2021 MVP favorite, Luka Doncic.
On Wednesday, the Mavericks played the Charlotte Hornets as they returned to action in hopes of continuing their winning streak. While missing key players that were beneficial in starting their winning streak, they got a key player returning to the court for the first time this season in Kristaps Porzingis. He was able to deliver for the Mavericks by impacting on both ends of the court with great rim protection and creating good shots. Porzingis finished with 16 points on 6 of 16 from the floor in 21 minutes. Luka Doncic looked like the MVP favorite, finishing with 34 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists and a career-high 4 blocks as he led the Mavericks to a 104-93 victory over the Hornets. Tim Hardaway Jr kept his hot stretch going , adding 18 points for the Mavericks to stretch their winning streak to four games after starting the season 2-4. With this win, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was able to secure his 800th win in his coaching career becoming the 16th coach with at least 800 career wins in NBA history. Currently, Rick Carlisle is third in active wins trailing Greg Popovich (1,283) and Doc Rivers (951)
The Milwaukee Bucks are coming into this game with a winning streak of their own, as they won three straight. Recently they were able to beat the Detroit Pistons 110-101 on Wednesday night to improve to 8-4 on the season. The Bucks are among the favorites to come out of the eastern conference once again after coming short of reaching the NBA finals last season. Coming into this season, they were wondering if they were able to retain their superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, as he was deciding on becoming a free agent or sign the extension with the team. He ultimately sided with signing the extension with the team in hopes on bringing a title to the city. The team made other key moves including acquiring Jrue Holiday from the New Orleans Pelicans and signing Bobby Portis in free agency. The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping that this is the season that will see them reaching the Conference Finals and potentially the NBA Finals.
Entering this game versus the Bucks, the Mavericks were able to win both meetings last season resulting in a season sweep. The Bucks won 27 of the first 38 games (1980-2000), the Mavericks have since taken the 25 of the last 39 meetings (2000-2020). Kristaps Porzingis averaged 26 points per game while Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 41 points per game in the two meetings last season. Overall, the Bucks lead the all-time series lead with a record of 41-36. This will be the only matchup between these teams in the first half of the season.
The Mavericks started this game still without five of their key players that include Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Josh Richardson due to health and safety protocols. Tim Hardaway Jr got things going for the Mavericks by taking the first 4 points of the game while the Bucks were struggling to put up points. The Bucks missed their first four shots of the game and turned to Giannis Antetokounmpo to get on the board hoping to start a run. Khris Middleton gave the Bucks the lead by hitting a go ahead three pointer to take a 12-10 lead with 6:37 left in the first quarter. The Bucks were able to get things going by getting fast break points as no one was going to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo in transition with his tremendous length. Coming out of a full timeout, the Bucks build on their momentum by going on a 12-0 run before Kristaps Porzingis killed the run by hitting a three pointer to give the Mavericks a boost. The Mavericks couldn’t find their shots going so Rick Carlisle decided to take a timeout in hopes of them breaking out from their slump. Who do you go to breakout of a slump? Luka Doncic as he drove to the basket for two points to try to cut some of the Bucks lead. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Mavericks threatened the Bucks but a step back shot in the final seconds by Jrue Holiday kept the Bucks in front. The Bucks were able to end the quarter by leading the Mavericks 30-23. Luka Doncic scored or assists on 20 of the 23 points for the Mavericks in the quarter. The Bucks came out shooting as they shot 52.2% from the field on 12 of 23 shooting. The Mavericks struggled from behind the arc by only making 2 from three point land. The Mavericks would need more production from their bench as they scored only 5 points. If the Mavericks want to come out of this with a victory, then they need to stop Giannis driving and make him shoot jump shots.
The Milwaukee Bucks continued where they left off in the second quarter by hitting a three from Brook Lopez and an attacking Giannis Antetokounmpo for a quick five points to increase their lead to 12 points. Rick Carlisle called timeout early with 10:37 left in the quarter as the Mavericks got off to a slow start by only making one field goal. The Mavericks have been beaten pretty badly in transition where the Bucks capitalize on them sleeping on defense. Coming out of the timeout, the Bucks continued to have their foot on the gas as they kept driving to the basket for easy points as the Mavericks try to find their rhythm as they took a 41-29 lead. The Mavericks simply have no answer for the back-to-back MVP as he was getting anything he wants and the only way you could stop him is by fouling him to prevent him driving to the basket. The Mavericks found some spark out of the timeout with production from Willie Cauley-Stein and James Johnson to cut the lead within 8 points. With both teams coming empty on possessions, Tim Hardaway Jr decided to take advantage of the moment and score 5 quick points to cut the Mavericks deficit to 4 points as they trailed as high as 14 points in the game. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Mavericks couldn’t finish the comeback as the Bucks were able to preserve the lead. The first half ended with the Bucks leading 55-47 with Giannis leading the team with 16 points and 5 rebounds. The Mavericks were able to find their groove but it would come too late in the half as Luka Doncic would work hard to get 10 points and 7 assists. The good news is that the Mavericks somehow found themselves still in this game as the Bucks had a chance to put these Mavericks away early. The bad news is the Mavericks defense was soft as the Bucks were able to use their antlers to plow through the Mavericks in the paint. The Mavericks defense was so bad that the Bucks shot 51.1% from the field and that’s no recipe for a win. The Mavericks were able to draw 3 fouls on Giannis as that’s probably the only way to stop him is if he fouls out of the game. The Mavericks have their hands full as the head into the third quarter.
Coming out of the half, the Mavericks made adjustments on Giannis Antetokounmpo by not letting him drive to the paint and instead sent him to the free-throw line where he has struggles. He would indeed miss both of his free-throws and the Mavericks used that to go on a 8-0 run to begin the quarter. Luka Doncic was able to draw foul number four on Giannis while making the basket to go to the free-throw as he would complete the three point play. The Bucks now have to be cautious with Giannis as they need their MVP in order to come out with a victory. The Bucks started this quarter by going 0 for 4 but Jrue Holiday ended the drought by making the basket while being fouled and would complete the three point play to keep the Bucks in front. Tim Hardaway Jr would come up big as he was able to end the Bucks 8-0 run by hitting a 27-foot three pointer. The Bucks still wouldn’t give the Mavericks a chance to comeback as Bobby Portis hit a 23-foot shot that prompted Rick Carlisle into taking a timeout with the Bucks taking a 65-59 lead with 6:50 left in the quarter. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks ran a play for Tim Hardaway as he hit a three pointer but the Bucks were able to answer on the other end. The Mavericks couldn’t get themselves over the hump as whatever they did, the Bucks were there to answer it right back. At one point, the Bucks missed a shot and the Mavericks couldn’t grab a single rebound as they rewarded the Bucks in multiple second chance points which resulted in Khris Middleton going to free-throw line making both of his free-throws. In this quarter, second chance points were killing the Mavericks as they couldn’t make up any ground. In the final minutes of the quarter, the Mavericks were able to cut the lead to within 2 points as Luka Doncic drove to the basket while being fouled but couldn’t finish the three point play at the free-throw line. The Bucks once again was able to keep their lead intact by hitting free-throws in the final seconds by D.J. Augustin to lead the Mavericks 84-81 heading into the final quarter. The Mavericks bounced back in this quarter by out scoring the Bucks 34-29 as they were able to stay within the game. Tim Hardaway Jr had himself a quarter by scoring 13 points as he was one of the reasons why the Mavericks were still in this game. The Mavericks would need to stop giving the Bucks second chance points as the Bucks had 20 second chance points compared to the Mavericks 5 points.
The Mavericks started this final quarter by going to Kristaps Porzingis for 4 quick points but it wasn’t until Trey Burke hitting a three pointer to finally tie this game for the Mavericks at 88-88. That’s as far as they would be able to get in the early stages of the quarter as the Bucks were being aggressive by drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line. D.J. Augustin was an example of that as he was able to drive to the basket while being fouled and able to complete the three point play to give the Bucks a 91-88 lead. With the Mavericks unable to get points on the offensive end, the Bucks took advantage of the empty possession by Bryn Forbes hitting a 3-point shot to extend the lead to 5 points as that prompted in a Rick Carlisle timeout. These Mavericks are right there to taking this game away from the Bucks but they can’t find that crucial go ahead basket. Coming out of the timeout, the Mavericks capitalize on it by getting points from James Johnson but Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to answer for the Bucks. The lead would be trimmed to 2 points with 7:25 left as the Mavericks were toe-to-toe with the Bucks and that prompted the Bucks to taking a timeout as they look for extra gas to put the Mavericks away. You got to get the Mavericks credit for staying in this game as this could’ve been an easy blowout for the Bucks. Coming out of the timeout, the Bucks drew up a play for Giannis as he was able to drive to the basket while being fouled but the good news was that he was able to miss the extra free-throw. The Mavericks again fouled Giannis and it would favor the Mavericks again as the MVP came out empty at the free-throw line. With the Mavericks desperately needing a basket, guess who they went to save the Mavericks? Luka Doncic as he hit a clutch three pointer to pull within 1 point with 5:33 left. The Mavericks were able to taste some of the Luka Magic as he was able to bail them out. With Willie Cauley-Stein baiting Giannis into taking a three and was able to drain it to keep the Bucks in front. The Mavericks saw their opportunity to go out in front and Luka Doncic was able to do just that as he found James Johnson for a clutch three pointer to go out in front to take a 1 point lead. The Bucks said “not so fast” as Khris Middleton hit back-to-back threes to give the Bucks a 109-105 lead with 1:47 left in the game. In the final minute of the game with the Bucks leading by 2 points, Luka Doncic couldn’t be the hero nor would Kristaps Porzingis as they both came up short in the possession for the Mavericks prompting them to play the “foul game”. The Mavericks sent Khris Middleton to the free-throw (who is an excellent free-throw shooter) and proved it by making both of his free-throws to give the Bucks a 111-107 with 7.8 seconds left. In the final seconds, Luka Doncic would hit a quick 2-foot shot to make it a 2 point lead for the Bucks but had to foul Brook Lopez to send him to the line. He would go on to make one of his free-throws and with the Mavericks being out of timeouts, that would ultimately seal the deal.
The team looked sluggish and their defense was like wearing camouflage in the woods, nowhere to be found. The Mavericks did a great job by finding ways to remain in this game but the Bucks made it difficult for it to happen. Giannis Antetokounmpo was playing like he wanted another MVP as he was torching the Mavericks in the paint. The Mavericks were able to fix their problems in the second half but every time the Mavericks started to go on a run, the Bucks were there to eliminate the threat. These Mavericks would ultimately take the lead late in the game but couldn’t finish as they gave the Bucks a chance to retake the lead. These Mavericks fought extremely hard and battled through especially in the second half as they refused to go away.
In the end, it was the Milwaukee Bucks claiming victory by defeating the Dallas Mavericks 112-109. The Mavericks saw their record drop to 6-5 on the season. The Mavericks finished their road trip with a record of 1-1. The Mavericks couldn’t get over the hump as they couldn’t buy enough buckets to put them over the top. They should a lot of grit and a lot of heart as they force the Bucks until the very last second. Luka Doncic finished the game with 28 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds. In his second game back, Kristaps Porzingis finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks. With this loss, Luka Doncic would drop to 1-3 in his career against Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks were able to get this win with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton combining for 56 points.
The Mavericks will now come back to the American Airlines Center to face the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. The same team that beat them earlier this month 118-108 in Chicago. The Mavericks are hoping they are able to revenge their loss to them in their short stay at home as they look to start another winning streak.