Mavs (9-3, 3-3 road, 3rd West) @ Bucks (6-4, 5-0 home, 4th East)
Bucks Injuries: Charlie Villanueva sat out practice yesterday with food poisoning. Mo Williams also sat out practice with a thumb injury, which he appeared to have played through during the Lakers game. Mike Ruffin is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured wrist.
Mavs Injuries: Eddie Jones is out with an ankle injury. Devean George is out with a stress reaction in his foot.
06/07 Series: The Mavs swept the Bucks 2-0, though both contests came late in the season and were decided in the final minutes. The Mavs beat the Redd-less Bucks 99-93 in Milwaukee on February 13, with Dirk Nowitzki's 38/11/8 fueling a comeback that saw the Mavs outscore the Bucks 28-11 in the fourth quarter. Bogut had 16/17 while Ruben Patterson had 20. In Dallas the Bucks got 34 from Redd (14/19 fg) and 15 from Ersan Ilyasova but saw their 10 point halftime lead sliced away before losing 105-103 on March 28. Dirk hurt his ankle in the fist half, but Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse combined for 48 points to lead the Mavs. The most memorable moment from a Bucks' perspective was Ilyasova's out-of-nowhere alley-oop dunk.
- The Mavs come in on a back-to-back, having lost last night in Indiana 111-107. Dirk had 20/11/5 in 42 minutes, so the Bucks will hope he's a little tired tonight.
- Dallas leads the league in offensive efficiency with 110.2 pts/100 possession, though they play a fairly slow pace (94.5, 17th), similar to the Bucks (94.3, 20th). The Bucks have increased their offensive efficiency of late and now rank 15th in the league at 103.3. Both teams are in the bottom half of the league in defensive efficiency: The Mavs 18th at 102.2 and the Bucks 23rd at 104.5.
- How are the Mavs so efficient? Right they now have an incredible four guys with PERs above 22: Nowitzki (23.36), Terry (24.34), Howard (23.70), and Harris (22.12). To put that in perspective, the Bucks have only one player with a PER above 19: Michael Redd (24.57).
- After outrebounding the Cavs and Lakers, both of whom rate ahead of the Bucks in overall rebounding rate, the Bucks should have an easier time of it tonight, as they come into the game ranked 8th in rebounding rate (.515) compared to the Mavs' 14th ranking (.506).
- Both teams have had a habit of falling behind early of late, the Bucks trailing by 10 and 14 points in the first quarters of the Lakers and Cavs games, respectively. Meanwhile the Mavs have done even more work, coming back from 24 and 17 point deficits against Toronto and Houston, respectively. In other words, a big lead won't mean as much tonight as it normally does.
- Former Tosa East and UW standout Devin Harris has stepped up big time since signing a $42 million extension this summer, averaging 20.4 ppg and 5 apg in his last five games. While Harris continues to be more of a scoring PG, Mo Williams has increased his assist rate since signing his $51 million extension, averaging 10 apg in the Bucks' current win streak.
- How will the Bucks defend the reigning MVP? Dirk Nowitzki has been a little off offensively this year, scoring 20.7 ppg after averaging nearly 25 ppg last year. His fg% (.471), 3fg% (.333), and ft% (.767) are all down and he's not shooting as much either, but you have to think those numbers will come around as the season progresses, even if the emergence of Harris and Josh Howard allows the Mavs to share the ball more. Dirk's assists are up (4 apg) and he's still rebounding (9 rpg) and blocking shots (1.2 bpg). On paper Yi seems like the best choice to cover Dirk, seeing as Yi has both length and quickness. We could also see Desmond Mason try his hand at guarding Dirk in order to hide Yi's inexperience more.
- Dirk and Yi played against each other this summer in a pair of exhibitions between China and Germany (video), so Yi will have some idea of how to approach the German superstar. Adding to the storyline is that Yi was often compared to Dirk leading up to the draft. While Yi is a better athlete than Dirk, there's no doubt Yi has a lot of work to do before he develops something even vaguely resembling Dirk's all-around arsenal and feel for the game. If Yi does match up with Dirk, expect the rookie to be challenged early with plenty of drives and ball-fakes.
- The Bucks' bench has been a key component of the team's current NBA-high four game win streak, outscoring opponents by an average of 38.7 to 20 in the last three. Villanueva (16 ppg, 8 rpg, 53% fg in his last three) has been coming around, which is great news for Bucks fans. On the other side Jason Terry has adapted exceptionally well to his new role as a sixth man, upping his scoring to 19 ppg despite playing four fewer mpg than last year (35 vs. 31). Shooting 53% from the field, 50% from three and 89% from the line certainly helps. Don't expect to see starter Hassell getting many minutes down the stretch.
- Third-year PF Brandon Bass has gotten plenty of minutes lately, averaging 15 ppg and 7.5 rpg over the last two games. Diop and Dampier haven't played as much, with the Mavs frequently going to a smaller lineup.
- Diop is a non-entity offensively, so Bogut should have an easier time avoiding foul trouble.
- Josh Howard has continued to develop quite nicely, averaging 21.4 ppg and 6.3 rpg on 52% shooting.
- For more on the Mavs, check out Mavs Moneyball.