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Bucks/Mavericks: Preview

Bucks (18-30 5-22 road, 12th East) @ Mavs (32-15, 20-3 home, 2nd West)

Gametime: 7:30 PM CT
TV:  FSN Wisconsin HD/League Pass/NBA Broadband
Radio: 620 WTMJ/Stream Free @ NBA.com

Bucks Stats: Offense 20th (100.8 pts/100 poss), Defense 28th (107.7), Rebounding 19th (.501 rr), Pace 23rd (92.7)
Mavericks Stats: Offense 2nd (109.2 pts/100 poss), Defense 17th (103.5), Rebounding 5th (.515 rr), Pace 26th (92.0)

Bucks Lineup: Mo Williams / Royal Ivey / Charlie Bell / Charlie Villanueva / Andrew Bogut

Mavs Lineup: Jose Juan Barea / Eddie Jones / Josh Howard / Dirk Nowitzki / Erick Dampier

Bucks Injuries: Michael Redd has missed the past five games with a left knee strain and did not travel with the team. Yi Jianlian is day-to-day with a shoulder injury. Awvee Storey did not travel with the team due to illness. Ramon Sessions has a broken left hand and is out six weeks.
Mavs Injuries: Devin Harris has missed four straight games with a left ankle bone bruise. Jerry Stackhouse has missed six straight games with a mild hamstring strain.

07/08 Series: 1-0 Bucks. The Bucks topped the Mavericks 97-95 (Brew Hoop recap) on Nov. 24. Seriously. The big three of Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut, and Mo Williams combined for 55 points on just 37 shots.

  • The Mavericks followed up their horrific 90-67 loss against the Pistons with an impressive 107-98 win in Orlando against the Magic on Monday. Josh Howard came out on top of Dwight in the battle of the Howards with 28 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. Honestly though, both Howards had 28 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
  • After last night's win over the Grizzlies (Brew Hoop recap), the Bucks are one of three teams in their division with 19 wins, along with the Bulls and Pacers. That means a win tonight, coupled with a Bulls loss, would vault the Bucks into third place in their division. You know, third place, like the Spurs and Trail Blazers. This type of scenario gives credence to a straight-up 16-team playoff, as promoted by Tom Ziller at Fanhouse (via Ball Don't Lie).
  • Charlie Villanueva got his wish for big minutes and delivered probably his best game of the season last night against the Grizzlies. Nevermind the favorable matchup, Villanueva was serious last night. His 31 minutes were the least among the five Bucks starters, but his production, 16 points and 16 rebounds, was anything but small. If Bogut and Villanueva can play aggressively and effectively on the front line at the same time, the Bucks could soon have a top five frontcourt in the Eastern Conference. And if you look at who has better big men, the Celtics, Pistons, Magic, and Raptors, you'll see also they are the best teams in the conference.
  • ESPN.com is reporting an almost completed blockbuster trade which will send Shaquille O'Neal to the Suns for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. Mavs Moneyball references a Sam Smith article that alleges the Mavericks were willing to part with Josh Howard for Shaquille O'Neal, which is slightly less shocking than the Suns actually giving up Marion. I need a Steve Nash quote on this deal, ASAP. O'Neal, for the record, is 35 years old and is averaging 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. Marion is 29 years old and is averaging 15.8 points and 9.9 rebounds. And 2.0 steals and 1.4 blocks. And he can, you know, run. (Update: Mavs Moneyball offers an interesting article attempting to understand why the Suns made the deal.)
  • Former University of Wisconsin standout Devin Harris has missed four games in a row with a left ankle bruise. Luckily, the Mavericks have one of the best backup point guards in the last ten years to fill the void. That's why it is interesting to see that Jose Juan Barea, not Jason Terry, started at the one for the Mavericks in their win over the Magic. Barea scored points in bunches in college at Northeastern and lit up the Kings for 25 points on 11 shots in the third game of this season, but bumping Terry out of the starting unit had more to do with trying to get Jet back on track than anything. Terry did play more minutes (29-21) and scored more points (20-6) than Barea, and the winning result indicates the lineup shift following the debacle against the Pistons appeared to work. Still, the Mavericks wouldn't dare experiment with Barea if they didn't have confidence in him.  Here's how Draft Express described the speedy Puerto Rican in a draft profile two years ago.

    Then again, it’s quite possible that as a backup he'll be fine. There are few backup point guards in the NBA today that possess the combination of passing, scoring and feel for the game that he does, and it goes without saying that if he was 6-2 he'd easily be a top 10 pick in this draft.

  • After flaming out in the first round as a number one seed last year, it seems everyone is wary of getting excited about the Mavericks and reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki in particular. However, the Mavericks remain one of the West's premier teams, and Nowitzki is having another strong season, averaging 22.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and a career-high 3.8 assists. However, while Nowitzki is shooting a solid 47.5 % from the field, his three point accuracy, 30.4 %, is easily the worst since his rookie season. Nowitzki is a career 37.7 % three point shooter, and shot 41.6 %, 40.6 %, and 39.9 % from long range in the past three seasons.
  • The Eastern Conference deservedly receives a lot of criticism for having three or four good teams while the West has nine or ten. Oddly, the Mavericks have fared much better against teams from the West than teams from the East this season. The Mavericks are 21-6 against the West, but just 11-9 against the East. That should suit them well for navigating through the conference playoffs at least. Then again, they were a similarly dominant 40-12 against the West last year.
  • Josh Howard increased his scoring each of the first four years in the NBA and is on track to continue the positive trend.  In his rookie season he averaged 8.3. He then increased to 12.6, 15.6, and 18.9. This season, he's up to 20.9 points per game. He's also averaging career highs in field goal percentage (47.6 %), rebounds (7.5), and assists (2.1) this season.
  • For great coverage of tonight's opponent, check out Mavs Moneyball and the Dallas Morning News Mavericks blog.