Longtime Brew Hoop friend and commenter Riley Feldmann has been writing about the Bucks this fall at his personal blog Buck to the Basket, and today he's back to serve up a preview of tonight's Bucks game vs. Dirk and company.
The Dallas Mavericks visit Milwaukee for the first and only time this season sporting an impressive 14-5 record, a mark that only one Eastern team has bettered so far. But despite their .737 winning percentage, Dallas enters tonight's game sixth overall out West and just fourth in their own division. Such is life in the Western Conference and the Southwest Division, where even the last place New Orleans Pelicans are 8-8 and feature MVP candidate Anthony Davis.
But while their record seems daunting at first glance, the Mavs are also recovering from a double-overtime thriller last night in Chicago, a game that saw them ultimately pull out the win, 132-129 behind Monta Ellis' 38 points. Coming off that performance, it wouldn't be shocking to see the Mavs start slowly or perhaps run out of gas a bit as the game wears on, potential key factors for a Bucks team looking to snap a two-game losing streak and avoid falling back to .500.
What has been the secret for Dallas so far this year? How about the continued high-level of play from Ellis? He's been putting up averages of 20.6 pts/4.6 asts/1.5 stls per game, all while hitting at a 46.3% clip from the floor and 53.7% in true shooting terms, his best marks since his breakout 2007-08 season. His athleticism has yet to leave him, and his craftiness attacking the basket remains one of his strongest talents, often helping open up the floor for his teammates to produce. Great performances thus far from Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler are the other obvious ingredients to a 1st-ranked Dallas offense, which has also gotten huge production off the bench from Brandan Wright (26.9 PER, 74.8% true shooting). They're often more comfortable letting a game turn into a shootout, reassured in their confidence in getting shots to go in down the stretch.
On the other end of the floor, things look a little less positive for Milwaukee than they did a week ago. After dropping games against the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers, one would hope that they can take advantage tonight at home against a tired Dallas team, particularly with a difficult Western road trip kicking off next week. With the absence of John Henson (foot sprain) and (most likely) Ersan Ilyasova (facial contusion), a somewhat thin Bucks frontcourt gets even thinner. That leaves Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the candidates to step in and fill the gap in the meantime. For the most part, their taking on heavier minute loads would be welcome, but the lack of proper rest could grind them down more quickly than most nights, especially with the Bucks coming off their own close game last night. Larry Sanders and Zaza Pachula cleaning things up on the glass and keeping Dallas' bigs from getting on a roll would go a long way to keeping the game somewhat competitive.
As tonight may come down largely to whether Dallas' prolific offense can overpower Milwaukee's stingy defense, it'll be critical that the Bucks can continue to force turnovers and create easy scoring opportunities. The Bucks create an average of 16.7 opponent TOV/game, good for second in the NBA. Unfortunately, Dallas is also one of the best in the league at retaining the ball, only giving up possession 11.4 times a night (5th in the NBA). Can Milwaukee put up a harrying defensive wall and keep Dallas grounded? If the Bucks want to grab the W tonight, it may come down to just that.
|2014/15 NBA Season|
|December 3, 2014|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center | Milwaukee, WI|
|Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Brandon Knight|
|Monta Ellis||SG||O.J. Mayo|
|Chandler Parsons||SF||Giannis Antetokounmpo|
|Dirk Nowitzki||PF||Jabari Parker|
|Tyson Chandler||C||Larry Sanders|
|2014/15 Advanced Stats|
|93.8 (11th)||Pace||93.0 (17th)|
|115.7 (1st)||ORtg||102.7 (24th)|
|106.6 (16th)||DRtg||104.1 (8th)|