Update: According to Ted Davis, Andrew Bogut will not play tonight. He is dealing with concussion symptoms, presumably related to the blow his head took as he fell to the floor late in the game.
It's not too difficult to pinpoint the high point of the Bucks' 10/11 season: December 13, 2010. That was the night Milwaukee strolled into Dallas, fell behind by as many as 20 in the first half and yet somehow managed to fight back and snap the Mavericks' 12 game-winning streak. Brandon Jennings was big (23 pts, 10 ast), Keyon Dooling (16 pts) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (14 pts) were dangerous, and Andrew Bogut couldn't miss (10/12 fg, 21 pts, 14 rebs).
Unfortunately the euphoria didn't last: Brandon Jennings broke his foot in San Antonio the next night, the Spurs won on a Manu Ginobili buzzer-beater, and the rest feels like history--good for the Mavs, bad for the Bucks. Even so, the Brandon-less Bucks managed to sweep the season series three weeks later with a New Year's Day win over a Dirk-less Mavs team that also lost Caron Butler for the season that day.
Mavericks rounding into form. Many were quick to write-off the Mavs after they looked "old, slow and out of shape" in their season-opening three losses, but RIck Carlisle's bunch has gotten it together somewhat of late, winning five of their last six and three in a row. As always, everything starts with Dirk Nowitzki, though the German superstar has seen his minutes and productivity drop following his Finals MVP performance last summer. Among other things, he's hitting just 19% of his threes thus far (career 38%), his 18.6 ppg is his lowest since 99/00 and his 5.5 rpg is his lowest since his rookie season in 98/99. Strangely, he's 0/5 from three in the last five games, which stands out both for the lack of makes as well as the lack of attempts.
Aside from Dirk, much has changed in Dallas. Jason Terry is still the sixth man and Shawn Marion starts next to Dirk at small forward, but Tyson Chandler is now in New York, Caron Butler is in L.A., DeShawn Stevenson landed in New Jersey, J.J. Barea went north to Minnesota and Jason Kidd will miss his fourth straight game due to a lower back injury. Even so, the Mavs have won three in a row since Carlisle switched to a Delonte West/Vince Carter starting pairing in the backcourt.
Of greater concern? Lamar Odom has been awful (6.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, .295/.182/.636 in 20 mpg) since the Lakers dumped him in Dallas for a trade exception, and Brendan Haywood still bears zero resemblance to a guy owed $45 million over the next five years.
Not the same old Bucks. The record feels somewhat familiar, but how the Bucks are doing it isn't--for better or worse. Through 10 games, Scott Skiles' bunch ranks toward the middle of the NBA pack both offensively and defensively, a far cry from the "all D, no O" extremes of last season. As we've harped on for the past couple weeks, a big part of the problem is on the boards. Milwaukee ranks 27th in defensive rebound rate (70.5%) after tying the Mavs for seventh last season. Dallas can relate to some extent: they currently rank below the Bucks in offensive efficiency (22nd) and above Skiles' team in defensive efficiency (11th). Last year they were damn good in both categories, finishing eighth in each. But one thing that hasn't slipped is their effectiveness on the glass: they lead the NBA in defensive rebound rate (77.5%)
Jack and Jennings hot, Bogut not. Coming off back-to-back wins in which they each shot better than 50% from the field, Stephen Jackson and Brandon Jennings have upped their scoring efficiency to the vaguely respectable levels of 51.7% and 52.0%, respectively. That's still slightly below average by NBA standards, but it's certainly better than where we were a week ago and would represent a healthy bump from the sub-50% marks Jennings posted in his first two seasons. The same can't be said of Andrew Bogut, who despite supposedly good health has yet to make more than half his shots in any game this season and has seen his TS% drop to a miserable 45.9%, well below even his career worst last season. While Bogut's free throw stroke looks much improved and he's even stroked a handful of 15-footers, his bread and butter post game has been a mess.
The big difference for Jennings has been his finishing: he's now shooting slightly over 60% around the hoop after finishing near the bottom of the barrel last year at 51.7%, which has helped offset a mediocre start from three point range (32.7%). The good news is that Jennings has made 12/24 from deep over the past five games, though the down side is that he's been getting to the line less of late as well. Last night's 6/6 performance was the first time in four games he attempted more than one free throw.
A major contrast between Jennings and Jackson is in the turnover department. While Jennings is once again doing an excellent job taking care of the ball (9.2% turnover rate), Jackson's usually-high rate has ballooned even further to 17.3%. Many of those seem to be coming on overly ambitious pass attempts, so you could say his heart is in the right place--unfortunately the same can't be said about the basketball.