In their last regular season matinee of the season, the Dallas Mavericks travel to the great state of Wisconsin to take on the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon. The Mavericks are in a pitched battle for home court advantage in the playoffs, moving up and down between the third and fourth seed lately.
The Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz are lurking. The Bucks are dealing with their own playoff seeding battle. The Mavericks can’t come into this game flatfooted like they did against the Washington Wizards Friday night. The Bucks are title contenders, unlike the tanking Wizards, and there’s no room for error.
Milwaukee was recently blown out by the Los Angeles Clippers, so they’ll be looking to get back on track. They’re 48-29, and 26-13 at home. The Mavericks are 48-30, and 21-18 on the road. The Bucks won the previous matchup in December 102-95.
Here are three things to contemplate before the game:
Quality shots will be key
Looking the last matchup between these two teams, the Bucks didn’t dominate in any one phase of the game. They only shot one percentage point better than the Mavericks on 3-pointers. They only outrebounded Dallas by four, and the Mavericks actually had two more offensive rebounds than the Bucks. Milwaukee only had one more assist.
They won by holding the Mavericks to 40% shooting from the floor, while they shot a more respectable 45%. The Bucks are long and athletic, and those types of teams have given the Mavericks trouble in the past (see: two playoff series losses to the Clippers). They’re able to shut down Luka Doncic’s passing lanes and bottle up Jalen Brunson in the paint.
The Mavericks are a different team since that December loss to the Bucks, though. They’re clicking on offense, and spreading the floor more than they did earlier in the year. They’ll need to use that extra space to get off better shots than they did in that last matchup. Hitting those higher quality shots will help, too.
The Mavericks will get plenty of 3-point shots
The Bucks play a style of defense that denies the paint and forces 3-pointers. They allow the most 3-pointers in the league at almost 41 per game. They’re fine with opponents shooting from behind the arc as long as they don’t get into the paint. And it works. Milwaukee is fourth in the league at points in the paint allowed at only 43.7 per game. That means the Mavericks’ shooters will have to come through when they get open shots. They’ve been better at that this season, but have still had some games where they didn’t come through. If they can knock down those 3-pointers, the Mavericks will have a chance against the defending champs.
Expect a lot of iso’s
Both teams are in the top six of the NBA in isolation plays per game. That’s no surprise, as Luka and Khris Middleton are both excellent in one-on-one situations. The Mavericks have a 51% EFG rate on iso’s, while the Bucks are just below them at 49%. Dallas is a little more efficient, though, scoring 1.01 pointer per possession on isolations, while Milwaukee only notches 0.94. That Mavericks number is second in the league, with only the Chicago Bulls scoring at a higher rate. If the Mavericks, and specifically Luka, can make the right play on those iso’s, they’ll be able to find success against a title favorite.
How to watch
The game tips off at noon CST, and can be seen on ABC.