Well, that was a weird game. I think I can summarize it in three words: "I don't know."
But here are some more words anyway. In the battle of Monta Ellis versus O.J. Mayo, the Mavs led the Bucks comfortably through halftime but as the Mavs are wont to do, made it interesting at the end. The Bucks got within three at one point in the fourth quarter but never went ahead, despite the Mavs giving them every opportunity to do so.
The first quarter saw the teams start off trading shots, but the Mavs playing well on both ends of the floor held the Bucks at bay despite O.J. Mayo's strong start. Mayo had 8 of the Bucks' first 11 points, but the Mavs' varied offensive attack, fast pace and good defense (!) held the Bucks to 22 total in the quarter, and a 27-8 run to close the quarter had the Mavs up 34-19.
In the second quarter, Vince Carter was unleashed. He looked rested and hungry coming off the bench, with some really nice passing and shooting to keep the Mavs' lead comfortable. Carlisle went with a three-guard look for a few seconds (literally), with Mekel, Calderon and Ellis on the floor together briefly. That experiment was quickly abandoned. Dallas continued to push the pace but got sloppy on offense, with a lot of missed shots and mental mistakes towards the end of the quarter. The Bucks couldn't capitalize though, and the Mavs stayed ahead 55-40 on 50% shooting to the Bucks' 35.7%, and with a 24-19 rebounding edge.
Mayo's hot hand continued and Caron Butler heated up in a wild third quarter. Milwaukee's defense seemed to have picked up early, forcing the Mavs to use the whole shot clock on possessions and make desperate shots at the end. The Mavs seemed to adjust quickly and maintained their lead with some key clutch shots and with Dirk and Monta drawing some very savvy fouls. But then...well, I'm not sure what happened but there was definitely a stretch of about a minute or five that resembled "basketball" only in that there were players and a ball on the court. The Mavs got sloppy with far, far too many turnovers and missed shots, and this time the Bucks were able to take full advantage with a 16-2 run towards the end of the third to finish the quarter down only four.
If you thought the third quarter was weird, it didn't get any less weird in the fourth. Vince Carter saw some early foul trouble towards the beginning of the fourth quarter, picking up his fifth. The Bucks' Khris Middleton hit his second trey of the night, O.J. Mayo stayed hot, and the Bucks clawed to within two points at one point. Three key steals (one by Crowder, two by Blair) and two subsequent fast break baskets gave the Mavs a little important breathing room. But the Bucks kept themselves in it the whole quarter.
By the end of the quarter, however, O.J. Mayo regressed to the mean of "being O.J. Mayo in the last two minutes" with five turnovers in the quarter, and the Mavs managed to get themselves together with some nice plays to pull out a win.
- The return of O.J. Mayo: O.J. Mayo had a really hot shooting night, finishing with 28 points. He only had one turnover through three quarters but FIVE turnovers in the fourth. If the Bucks had any chance at winning when they made it close in the fourth, Mayo was the reason, but he also did them no favors at the end. (Hey, this story sounds vaguely familiar!)
- Dallas' inconsistent offensive night: For all our talk about the Mavs having so many offensive weapons -- and don't get me wrong, they do -- none were at their best tonight. Ellis led all Mavs scorers with 18, Dirk had 16, Vince and Calderon had their moments, but nobody looked great the whole game. The offense in the second half was just messy overall with a lot of misses and confusion on what seemed like every possession. That doesn't seem normal for this team, which has looked very controlled on offense this season for the most part, so let's hope it was just an off night.
- DeJuan Blair and defense: The Mavs are near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency, but there have been some bright spots here and there. DeJuan Blair continues to play very well for the Mavs. He led the team with 11 rebounds tonight, and added three steals to boot. He leads the league in steals with 17. The Mavs had a total of 11 steals and 5 blocked shots tonight. We know this team is just not going to be great on defense, but players stepped up tonight to pick up the offense a little bit, and that matters.
- Turnovers: Continuing a familiar theme from last season, turnovers are still a thing. In six games so far this season, the Mavs have averaged 16 turnovers a game, which includes 19 tonight. Those are the kinds of little things the Mavs can and MUST control better to be in the playoff race at the end of the season. There was no reason I could see other than sheer carelessness for a lot of those TOs tonight.
- Dirk: Getting Dirk the ball has been a theme this season, no question. He had the first points of the game, which you like to see, but he finished 5-15 with 16 points, six of which came on free throws. I won't worry about Dirk's line in a game that was bizarre all around, but whether the Mavs can draw up good looks to consistently get him the ball is something to watch.
A win is a win at the end of the day. This is the type of game we rarely saw the Mavs win last season, and they seem to have a better knack for closing them out in the small sample size theater of this young season. That's all I got, folks. Discuss away!