The Dallas Mavericks fell to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night on the first night of a back-to-back. Dallas was coming off a blowout victory in Washington where they were able to ride the coattails of another red-hot shooting night, but that wasn’t expected to be the case last night against Milwaukee.
Dallas relied heavily upon the offensive production from Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and the Mavericks' second-half defense put them in an extremely difficult position to stop the stampede that was Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Mavericks fought hard against a very stout opponent, but the 9-4 Bucks weren’t even completely healthy as they were missing key players in Khris Middleton and Marjon Beauchamp.
3 Studs, 2 duds from Mavericks' 132-125 loss to Bucks
Kyrie Irving offered his thoughts on how Dallas can improve against some of the more elite teams in the league after the game last night, as they’ve struggled much heavier in their losses to Denver and Milwaukee virtually more so than any other games this year.
"What I learned from tonight and even in Denver is just that we still have to mature as a team and continue to find that consistency that we talk about daily. And that's just doing the little things and settling into our roles, and night-to-night, it could be different people finishing the game in different lineups. We just got to be prepared. Teams are going to throw their best at us. We saw that tonight against Milwaukee, you see that against other teams. But when you play against the top teams in the league, you can really use that measuring stick to propel yourself moving forward and gather all the mistakes and attack them and then move forward."- Kyrie Irving
Nonetheless, here are three studs, and two duds from Mavericks' 125-132 loss to the Bucks.
Honorable Mention: Tim Hardaway Jr.
Tim Hardaway Jr. continued to forward his case to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award in the Mavericks loss to Milwaukee last night. Hardaway Jr. was the source of much of the Mavericks' offense, especially in the first half where his shooting bailed the Mavericks out of some particularly rough droughts.
Hardaway Jr. finished with 17 points and canned four out of 10 shots from beyond the arc, as he cooled off a little bit in the fourth quarter. Hardaway Jr. is showing great consistency in Dallas which is encouraging, as his once-bad games in Dallas are turning into average games for him. Hardaway Jr. had a few rough defensive possessions last night, but barring that he played pretty well. If Hardaway Jr. continues to play this well, the Mavericks will find it much harder to part ways with him in a trade.
5. Stud - Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic did an incredible job of getting to his spots last night, as he served the Milwaukee Bucks 35 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists on 15-26 shooting efficiency from the field.
Doncic did a great job of taking advantage of the Bucks playing drop coverage, as he was torching the likes of Pat Connaughton, Andre Jackson Jr., and Malik Beasley when they guarded him one-on-one. Doncic was extremely savvy in his approach last night as he did a great job of operating within the in-between area so Bucks center Brook Lopez couldn't use his elite shot-blocking ability on him.
When Doncic and Kyrie Irving get favorable one-on-one matchups, the Mavericks have to do their best to capitalize defensively because more likely than not offense won't be an issue in those instances. Unfortunately, Dallas wasn't able to do that last night as they conceded 17 made 3-pointers. Doncic was objectively a part of the Mavericks' perimeter defense woes last night, but other than that he did everything he needed and more for the Mavericks to win last night.
Doncic got to the rim and mid-range area with ease and did a great job of finding the open man when Milwaukee showed some late doubles. It was nice to see Doncic play more of a balanced game, as he's been settling for a lot of three-pointers recently.
His increased 3-point attempts have been warranted, but teams have been hedging and recovering hard on ball screens as a means to try and take Doncic's signature step-back away more recently, so it was great to see him make the proper adjustments last night.
If Doncic continues to push the pace of play like he did last night and has throughout other junctures this season, the Mavericks will be extremely tough to beat when their role players are dialed in.