11-26 is the sort of vintage shooting line that Monta Ellis simultaneously dazzled and dismayed Bucks fans with during his tumultuous tenure with Milwaukee. Even if 23 points, 7 assists, and 3 steals doesn't quite qualify as "having it all," sinking a buzzer-beating fadeaway to secure a two-point win certainly does.
Ellis' bucket as time expired sent the Milwaukee Bucks to their third-straight loss, the first such streak this season for Milwaukee. There were loud protests from the crowd after the ball sailed through the net as it appeared Ellis may have traveled on the spin move that set up his jumper, but the officials made no such call. All five starters for Dallas scored at least 13 points and the Mavs grabbed offensive rebounds on over a third of their misses.
The Bucks got off to a blistering start, recording a sizzling 64 points (128.0 offensive rating) in the game's first 24 minutes. They hit 25 of their first 39 shots and pulled down four offensive rebounds. Despite the hot shooting, Milwaukee was never able to establish a significant lead and only held a seven-point advantage at halftime. Even without Dirk Nowitzki, who sat out after playing 42 minutes the night before, Dallas' offense is very dangerous. Couple that with a regressing Milwaukee defense and hot shooting alone wasn't enough to build much of a lead.
Trouble was, that hot shooting didn't continue. The Mavericks took their first lead of the game halfway through the third quarter behind a 13-0 run. Neither defense played particularly well, but the Mavs were able to employ a reasonably effective zone against Bucks lineups that were a little short on shooting. With neither Giannis Antetokounmpo nor Jabari Parker presenting real threats from outside, the onus sat squarely on the shoulders of Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo to create any good outside shots.
For his part, Knight tried his best. He turned in his second strong performance in as many nights, recording 25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals on 8-16 shooting (7-7 FTs). There was even another classic Good Knight/Bad Knight moment late in the game. With Dallas up by one, the Bucks were set to inbound the ball on the offensive end with 26 seconds remaining, but Knight stuck out a shoulder and was whistled for a moving screen to send the ball back to the Mavs. But Richard Jefferson made just one of two free-throws after an intentional foul, giving the Bucks a chance to tie with a two-pointer. Knight delivered again, sinking a long stepback jumper after getting Tyson Chandler off-balance with a drive around a Zaza Pachulia screen. That tied the game with under 9 seconds to play, setting up Ellis' dagger.
Perhaps most disheartening was the lack of production from Parker and Antetokounmpo, who combined for just 11 points and spent much of the latter half of the game on the bench. Giannis did have 5 assists and Jabari sank a nice little baby hook in the lane, but the plethora of highlights was conspicuously absent.
On the positive side, Khris Middleton one of his best games of the season, sinking 8-13 shots for 22 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. After a miserable four-game stretch, Middleton has now scored in double-figures in four of his last five games.
The loss drops Milwaukee back to an even .500 record at 10-10. They'll host the Miami Heat in the BMO Harris Bradley Center on Friday.