With the trade deadline passed and the Dallas Mavericks coming out on the other side truly starting the Luka Doncic Era, the Mavs were methodically beaten by the Milwaukee Bucks, who looked terrific even without resting Khris Middleton or the newly acquired Nikola Mirotic. The Bucks are going to be a serious force in the playoffs, surrounding MVP-candidate Giannis Antentokoumpo with elite shooting and executing at both ends.
MAVS STARTERS STILL STRUGGLING
Newcomer Tim Hardaway Jr. got his first start for Dallas, after coming off the bench last game. Hardaway managed 12 points on 12 shots, with more turnovers(3) than assists(2). As a whole, the starters were outmatched against Milwaukee Luka Doncic had a nice burst in the second half, finishing with 20 points, but was largely kept in check by the Bucks terrific defensive rotations. Dorian Finney-Smith hit some threes, but drew the unfortunate assignment of trying to slow down Giannis, and that went about as well as you’d expect. Jalen Brunson was fairly quiet, on a night where Dennis Smith Jr. put up a career best 31-8 in Detroit.
THREE-BALL KEEPS DALLAS IN IT, SORT OF
Milwaukee led most of the way, often by double-digits, but the Mavericks had a few short runs to cut the lead down to a respectable margin, and that was thanks largely to a franchise record-tying performance from three-point range. The Mavs made 22 long bombs, from 11 different players. They made nine in the third quarter alone. Doe-doe, Luka, Trey Burke and Dwight Powell(!) each had three threes apiece.
DIRK-BURKE KEY TO BENCH?
Speaking of Trey Burke, it was a nice game for the ex-Michigan Wolverine, as Burke put up 18 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in 27 minutes. An effective pick and roll player, Burke teamed up nicely with Dirk Nowitzki, and the two were +14 and +15 respectively, by far a team best and pretty remarkable given the final score. It will be interesting to see how well those two can play together to finish out the season.
TWO MORE DEBUTS FOR DALLAS
Justin Jackson— acquired from Sacramento in the Harrison Barnes trade— came on for his first game action tonight, and promptly hit his first shot, which was the record-tying three. Courtney Lee also saw his first burn as a Maverick, and I’ll be honest that I’m surprised he hasn’t seen the floor more yet. Perhaps there’s some undisclosed ailment that’s been bothering him, because he has the reputation of being a quality veteran role player of the sort you often see Rick Carlisle take an interst in. One debut that did not happen tonight was that of Kostas Antentokoumpo, Giannis’ brother, who had been listed as active at one point in the day before being a late scratch with an illness.
Tonight was an important reminder of just how far Dallas has to go to become a legitimate contender like Milwaukee. Their home stretch won’t get any easier Sunday when they host the Portland Trailblazers in an early afternoon game. See you then, Mavs fans!