The Dallas Mavericks will welcome the Milwaukee Bucks to the American Airlines Center Saturday Night. Milwaukee is searching for their first win of the Doc Rivers era, having dropped the first two games featuring their new bench boss. This will be the second and final game of the season series between these two teams— Dallas is looking to salvage a split after dropping the previous meeting in Milwaukee.
Dereck Lively II and Kyrie Irving are listed as doubtful for this one, and Dante Exum has already been ruled out. The injury bug continues to rear its ugly head, making this matchup with the Bucks incredibly difficult. Both teams are desperate for a win, but Dallas is at a significant disadvantage in both the health and talent departments. Here are three things to watch for as the Mavericks look to get back in the win column.
Two households, both alike in dignity
This year’s Bucks profile similarly to this year’s Mavericks— Milwaukee is just a little bit better at almost everything. According to NBA stats, the Bucks are ranked third in offensive rating and 19th in defensive rating. Meanwhile, the Mavericks are 10th in offensive rating and 23rd in defensive rating. Milwaukee is third in pace and Dallas is ninth. Both teams are in the top ten in three-point attempts per game. So, both Dallas and Milwaukee want to play fast, shoot threes, and ignore defense. For the Mavericks to win this game, they need to outshoot the Bucks from three and hold their own on the boards; rebounding is the one area where Milwaukee (tenth) has the huge edge over Dallas (27th). They can do this by attacking the offensive glass, an area where they’ve actually been better than the Bucks this season.
Who will step up as Luka Doncic’s temporary sidekick?
The last time Dallas and Milwaukee got together, Kyrie Irving poured in 39 points. Doncic chipped in 35 of his own in a close defeat. You know that Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard will get theirs. For Dallas to keep up, someone (or more likely, a collective someone) will have to step up and provide Doncic with scoring in Irving’s absence. Maybe Tim Hardaway Jr. bounces back from his stinker in Minnesota. Maybe Josh Green can build on his recent run of strong play. The role players will need to hit the open shots that Doncic is sure to create for them.
Can the defense get worse?
Over the last ten games, the Mavericks have the worst defensive rating in the NBA. As someone who’s watched every minute of these games, the eye test backs that up, too. The Dallas defense is a complete disaster right now, and it appears likely that their most impactful defender (Lively) will miss his second consecutive game. I have no idea how this team is going to guard an offensive juggernaut like the Bucks. The short answer is they won’t. Maverick fans can only hope that Milwaukee goes cold from three and forgets they can score in the paint at will. There are no internal answers to improving this defense, and the beleaguered Mavericks will likely continue their slide down the defensive rating leaderboard on Saturday night.