Charlie scored 25, but Dirk scored a win. (image via Glenn James/NBAE/Getty)
Between CV's excellence, a string of wins, Ramon's progression, routinely scoring in triple digits, LeBron's show, and a playoff race, it's become easy to forget about all that ails the Bucks.
Well, this is the type of the game that makes you remember that the Bucks are playing without two of their top players, and at the same time makes you wonder how they have managed to play so very well the last few weeks.
Dallas earned some redemption after absorbing a pounding by the Bucks in January by winning easy in Big D, 116-96. For a while, it looked as though the Mavericks would literally even the score and 35-point differential, but Milwaukee showed renewed interest in the second half for a short while, even cutting the deficit from 25 to 11.
Josh Howard (27 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals, 3 blocks) stuffed the Bucks and the stat sheet for Dallas, and Jason Kidd (6-7 from the field, 2-2 on threes, 5-5 from the line) had one of those night shooting the rock. The Bucks also had no chance against Brandon Bass (18 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks), who was an absolute force off the bench.
- Charlie Villanueva. What else can I say but that Charlie turned the American Airlines Center into his personal Villanueva -- or new house, in the first period. Obviously dissatisfied with the home/road splits that recently circulated the Bucks' blogosphere, Villanueva did his best to improve the away stats by scoring 19 in the first quarter. It's a good thing that Villanueva was not suspended following his ejection from last Friday's game against the Cavs. Since then, the Bucks beat the Nuggets behind CV's 36, and tonight they very well may have been outscored 33-4 in the first quarter without the former Connecticut star. More on that in Three Numbers. Oh, and CV's Huskies beat Marquette at the BC tonight.
- Ramon Sessions. Before you say Jason Kidd completely schooled Ramon the kid, please do note that Sessions committed one turnover compared to six for the future Hall-of-Fame point guard. He also added 11 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Granted, this was far from a pinnacle performance by Sessions, who missed an open layup and hit just half of his free throws (3-6).
- Charlie Bell. Should I pick the player who scored four points with a +17 differential or the one who netted 19 points but a -27 differential? I went with the latter (Bell) over the former (Mbah a Moute) on this night, mostly by virtue of Charlie picking up at least some scoring slack in a game that Dallas just destroyed Milwaukee off the bench.
- 0. Okay, here's the first quarter situation for the Bucks: Villanueva made a lot of baskets, no one else made any. I regret to inform you that this is not an exaggeration either. CV continued his recent dazzling play by hitting 8-12 from the field while his teammates more than made up for all of that good shooting by going an oh-my 0-12.
- 93.8 %. Dallas shot the ball well from all over the court, but they were particularly on point at the free throw line, making 30-32. It was a real team effort too, with eight players making at least a pair from the line. Brandon Bass (8-8) led the way. This shouldn't come as a surprise because the Mavs entered the game as the second most accurate team from the stripe in the NBA.
- 51. Straight rebound stats aren't usually the most illustrative of all measures, but the Mavericks outrebounded the Bucks at better than a 2:1 ratio, 51-25. Perhaps more incredible is that three guys off the bench for Dallas (Bass, Barea, Singleton) racked the same number of rebounds, 25, as the entire Milwaukee team.
- New Nowitzki? At first sight, a 31 year-old German with blonde locks might not make you immediately declare "Charlie Villanueva!" But a closer basketball-look reveals similarity. Power forwards, both of them, and height and weight are close. Their offensive arsenals, distinguished by a most deadly outside shot, bear a certain resemblance. They also share an underrated ability to rebound and are labeled as soft defenders. Lots of differences, make no mistake. And early on, there was a big difference between the two power forwards, as CV poured in a quick 18 points before the former MVP etched his first point on the score card.
- Second half surge. During a swift 18-minute stretch before halftime, the Mavericks beat down the Bucks by a 58-26 margin. Aside from that major meltdown, the Bucks weren't that bad. Yes, I know it only takes one major meltdown. They even outscored the Mavericks in the second half, though they weren't really competitive in the span either. It was great to see some fight after a rare, uninspiring stretch of basketball before halftime.
- Same standing. The Pistons lost for the eighth time in a row tonight and Wauwatosan Devin Harris slayed our southern neighbors tonight, so the Bucks stayed in the eighth spot and just a game back of the seven seed despite the loss.
- First quarter flop. Dallas neglected to score for a the first few minutes of the game, letting Milwaukee take a 5-0 lead. They also ran off an 8-0 run to take a 15-7 advantage, but then everything went horribly, terribly wrong. In just a touch over three minutes, the Mavericks remembered they were playing on their own turf against an injury-reduced club and strung together a 16-0 streak. The early game of runs quickly turned into a one-team track meet with Dallas literally running away from Milwaukee on the fast break. They hardly looked back either.
- Saw red. The red jerseys? Pretty slick, we mostly agree. But it was not a good thing when I saw red tonight. The offense has generally been a big hit sans Redd and Bogut, so you can't be too upset with tonight's miss. The lack of defensive focus however was far less excusable, as Dallas were clearly the aggressors, which they most notably showed on the fast break and getting to the free throw line. On the sunny side, the group responded well to whatever Scott Skiles said at halftime, staging a small comeback and briefly giving hope.
Six straight. I've had the pleasure to write about a couple of Milwaukee's best games of the last two years: great wins against the Mavericks both this year and last. Unfortunately, Milwaukee still couldn't buck an eight-year trend of losing in Dallas, falling for the sixth time in a row.