Mavericks vs. Bucks Preview: Bucks return home looking to complete Mavs sweep

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks after getting things back on track in Dallas, the Bucks look to keep up their winning ways when they host Dirk Nowitzki, Vince Carter and the Mavs at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

2012/2013 NBA Season
Mil_medium
(32-29, 16-15 road)
vs.
Dal
(29-33, 12-21 road)
March 12, 2013
BMO Harris Bradley Center | Dallas, TX
7:00 CT
FS Wisconsin HD | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Brandon Jennings PG Mike James
Monta Ellis SG O.J. Mayo
Luc Mbah a Moute SF Shawn Marion
Ekpe Udoh PF Dirk Nowitzki
Sam Dalembert C Chris Kaman
2012/13 Advanced Stats
94.7 (3rd) Pace 94.5 (6th)
103.6 (21st) ORtg 105.3 (16th)
104.3 (10th) DRtg 106.3 (17th)

On the Mavs: Mavs Moneyball | The Two Man Game | Dallas Basketball

Mavs update. The Mavericks claimed their third straight win with a 100-77 laugher in Minnesota on Sunday, keeping them 3.0 games behind the 8th seeded Lakers in the West. Vince Carter scored 22 off the bench for the Mavericks, whose starting lineup featured three changes from what the Bucks saw two weeks ago. Chris Kaman is back from injury and starting at center, former Marquette star Jae Crowder has been deputizing for the injured Shawn Marion (calf) at small forward and one-time Buck Mike James has curiously claimed the starting point guard spot from Darren Collison, though the former UCLA star continues to play as much or more than the 37-year-old James.

Oh, they still have that Dirk guy, too, though his 20/20 night against the Bucks in Dallas isn't exactly typical for him either. Still, he's upped his game a fair bit since the all-star break, posting 17.6 ppg and 8.6 rpg on .489/.478/.964 shooting.

Boylan effect. How have the Bucks fared under their don't-call-him-an-interim head coach? In 29 games he's gone 16-13, matching Scott Skiles' total in three fewer games (16-16) on the strength of a much-improved offense. The Bucks' offensive defensive efficiency splits have improved from 98.8/100.6 with Skiles to 102.9/102.3 with Boylan, playing at a faster pace (98.6 vs. 96.3 possessions/game) and converting more effectively from the field (52.2% true shooting vs. 50.4%). The downside has been a defense that forces fewer turnovers and is even worse on the defensive boards than they were under Skiles (71.1% vs. 69.9%), though on net the offensive improvement has more than made up for the ground lost on the defensive end. (via NBA.com/stats)

The Goose is loose. Gustavo Ayon took advantage of his first real opportunity as a Buck on Sunday, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven boards (all in the first half) in just 14 minutes. Ayon was active on the glass and worked the baseline expertly in keying a 16-2 Bucks run to start the second half, ceding them a lead that they would never relinquish (albeit just barely). Whether Ayon can parlay that success into more meaningful time is unclear, as he likely wouldn't have even played in Sacramento were it not for injuries to Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova.

Speaking of which, it's not clear if either will be ready to face the Mavericks on Tuesday. Andrew Gruman at FS-Wisconsin writes:

The Bucks have a needed day off Monday before having another back-to-back with a home game against Dallas on Tuesday and a trip to Washington on Wednesday. It's too early to tell if any of the three that missed Sunday's game will be back in time to play against the Mavericks.

"We'll see," Boylan said. "(J.J.) is a guy that probably that will be able to come back. Ersan and Larry will be day-to-day. We'll see how things shape up for us on Tuesday."

For his part, Ayon understandably isn't thrilled with his lack of minutes to date. In a Hoops Hype translation from an earlier Spanish interview:

Here it's gotten to the point of being asked, "Hey, what can you do?" I'm like, "You can watch tape and you see can what I can or I can't do

You realize you're not taken into consideration. You are compared to guys that are just filling out the roster and I'm not one of those.

Ayon was a quality player in New Orleans a year ago and he's certainly not a 15th man, but his problem is the same as all the Bucks' other big men not named Larry or Ersan. Along with John Henson, Ekpe Udoh and Sam Dalembert, Ayon is good enough to get rotation minutes but not clearly better than any of the bigs other than Drew Gooden, who at this point doesn't look like he should be playing at all. So who plays?

Call it Jim Boylan's eternal question.

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