If the Dallas Mavericks were supposed to roll over and let the Milwaukee Bucks trample over them for their 19th straight win, they certainly didn’t get the memo. The Bucks jumped out to an 8-1 lead but Dallas responded, led by Kristaps Porzingis’ 11 points and four rebounds, to shoot 53 percent on 13 triples to take a 36-22 lead after one quarter.
The Mavericks appeared to start the second quarter strong, extending the lead to 16 points with 10:32 left. After a few traded buckets, Seth Curry drove to the lane and went for the finger roll finish, but was met at the rim and blocked. The Bucks raced down the court and hit a transition three to cut the lead to 10. From there it was all Milwaukee who outscored Dallas by 11 points in the quarter and 30-17 the rest of the way after falling behind by 16 points. The Mavericks barely hung on, scoring only four points in the final 4:35 to take a 59-56 lead into the half.
The dam looked like it was about to break at the start of the third when Giannis Antetokounmpo pumped in 11 straight points, but somehow the Mavericks survived the storm even after the Bucks took a 67-66 lead with 7:31 remaining. Dallas responded with a 14-2 run to push the lead back to 11. The Mavericks played spectacular defense finishing the quarter on a 20-9 run to take an 86-76 lead into the fourth quarter.
If your heart rate wasn’t up during the fourth quarter then you were probably dead to begin with. Dallas pushed the lead to 13, hitting big shot after big shot. But Milwaukee strung together a run, trimming the lead to seven, and as Dallas did all game, they answered with three triples. Dallas looked well on their way to a double digit victory but the team coasted toward the home stretch and let Milwaukee cut the lead to four.
Rick Carlisle tried to let the reserves finish it out, but the game became too close forcing Carlisle to insert the starters. It became a fouling affair, and Dallas missed a few free throws to allow Milwaukee to extend the game. Ultimately, the Mavericks held on to earn their 10th road victory. Antetokounmpo paced all players with 48 points and 14 rebounds, but the Mavericks, led by Porzingis and Curry’s 26 points handled Milwaukee 120-116.
KP needed this
With Luka Doncic at home in Dallas, someone had to step up, and Porzingis’ best game as a Maverick couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. The Bucks jumped out to an 8-1 lead, and it seemed like they were going to have their way. But Porzingis pumped in 11 first quarter points and was instrumental in Dallas creating a 14 point lead in the first 12 minutes. For the game Porzingis scored 26 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, tallied four assists and collected two blocks. He was efficient too, connecting on 9-of-19 from the field and 4-of-8 from deep including these two (basically) knockout punches:
Kristaps Porzingis from the logo... TWICE! #MFFL— SportsDay Mavs (@dmn_mavericks) December 17, 2019
(via @dallasmavs) pic.twitter.com/UfvbLv5LD8
The biggest development was how decisive Porzingis looked. There was very little hesitation, and he didn’t seem to waste many dribbles trying to back down defenders on the block. Several times he caught the ball, quickly turned and rose above the defender for the jump shot. Other times he quickly passed out to the perimeter when the defender closed the space on his jumper.
Even when the Bucks looked to be on the precipice of a miraculous comeback, Porzingis made a game saving block after the Bucks secured an offensive rebound off a missed free throw. This was Porzingis’ best game of the season, and it’s not even close.
Seth Curry provided the second punch
Another player who started the season slow, Curry shouldered some of the scoring load by dropping 26 points and connecting on 4-of-8 from behind the arc. With Jalen Brunson sliding into the starting lineup and Delon Wright still working his way back from injury, the Mavericks bench needed juice, and Curry delivered.
After his cashed a few money balls, Curry was able to get into the teeth of the defense almost anytime he wanted and caused fits with his feathery floater. Multiple times he kissed the ball off the glass, over the shot blockers outstretched arm which illustrated how in control he was offensively.
The sharpshooter has now scored 26 and 30 points in two of the last three games while splashing in 10 of his last 19 threes. If Curry is finding his groove, the Mavericks could take it to another level.
The Mavericks played spectacular team ball
This is really quite obvious considering Dallas was up double digits most of the game and ended Milwaukee’s 18-game win streak. That kind of thing doesn’t happen unless most of the team is firing on all cylinders. While Porzingis and Curry paved the way, Brunson contributed 13 points and 11 assists. Dorian Finney-Smith added 15 points (3-of-5 from deep) and eight rebounds. And Maxi Kleber played active defense on Antetokounmpo, even though the box score doesn’t show it. The bench outscored the Buck’s reserves 56-44, and the team overcame 14 turnovers and 27 Milwaukee fast break points.
They communicated defensively, navigating Antetokounmpo ball screens. The ball flew around to the open man. And aside from the last half of the fourth quarter, the team buckled down defensively to keep everyone not nicknamed the Greek Freak at bay. Every time the Bucks made a run, the Mavericks immediately answered. It was inspired basketball, and it proved this team can win without their MVP candidate.
This was potentially a season defining win.
Here’s the postgame podcast, Mavs Moneyball After Dark. If you can’t see the embed below “More from Mavs Moneyball”, click here. And if you haven’t yet, subscribe by searching “Mavs Moneyball podcast” into your favorite podcast app.