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Bucks vs. Mavs Preview: Milwaukee begins road trip in Dallas with rematch against Monta Ellis and Mavs

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Good news: A week into their brutal December schedule, the Milwaukee Bucks are doing...OK. Bad news: The opposition is about to get even more difficult.

Four days after Monta Ellis' circus buzzer beater in Milwaukee, the Bucks get a chance to exact some revenge tonight when they close out the home-and-home season series in Dallas. Of course, revenge in this case is much easier said than done, particularly on the road against a Dallas team that's 15-6 overall and figures to have Dirk Nowitzki back in the lineup after missing the team's meeting in Milwaukee. Still, the Bucks can take some solace from Friday night's blowout home win over the Heat, a win that snapped a three-game losing streak and kept the Bucks above .500 as they embark on their first Western road trip of the season. Consider their next seven opponents: @DAL, @OKC, vs. LAC, @PHX, @POR, @SAC, @LAC. Yikes.

Getting offensive. The Bucks' offense continued to flex its newfound muscle against the Heat, shooting a season-best 56.5% from the field and cracking the 50% mark for the second time in as many games. They've now had eight straight games with an offensive efficiency rating of 104.2 pts/100 possessions or better (their season avg is just 103.8) and have ranked 8th in the entire league in offensive efficiency over the past 11 games. Not bad for a team that ranked just 29th over the season's first 10 games, though they've needed it considering their defense has often looked flimsy over the past 11 games (19th) after ranking second in the first 10 games. What that means for the Bucks' identity is anyone's guess, though at this point we might want to hold off calling them a defense-first team.

They'll need all the points they can get tonight in Dallas, as the Mavs come in with the league's second-ranked offense. Even with the Mavericks misfiring for much of the night in Milwaukee, Tyson Chandler's domination of the glass (20 rebounds) gave Dallas enough second chances to grind out 50% eFG and 110.6 pts/100, figures below the Mavs' usual output but well above Milwaukee's opponent averages.

Zone. Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo were non-factors in the second half on Wednesday, with Giannis not even seeing the court for the final 20 minutes of the game. Part of that could be attributed to the zone defense Rick Carlisle deployed early in the third, a move that seemed to leave the young Bucks a bit rattled. Neither Parker nor Antetokounmpo have been threats from deep early on this season, something that likely played a role in Jason Kidd opting to roll with the more perimeter oriented Jared Dudley and Khris Middleton against the Dallas zone. Not that you have to shoot threes to beat a zone; driving and passing can also do the trick, which is why the Bucks starting five has been effective at scoring even without much of any perimeter shooting from their frontline.

Workbench. Speaking of Dudley and Middleton, both have been rediscovering their touch off the bench over the past couple weeks, providing further firepower to an offense that sports the highest-scoring bench in the league (45.3 pts/g) and the lowest-scoring starting five (52.3). Part of that is also a matter of usage -- the Bucks have also played their starting units fewer minutes than any other team (26.5 mpg).

Dirk. After resting a sore back on Wednesday, tonight figures to be the Bucks' first and only look at Dirk Nowitzki, who just keeps plugging along at the age of 36. Though he's playing fewer minutes than in any season since his rookie year (29.5 mpg), Dirk's per minute and advanced numbers have been remarkably consistent over the past four seasons. He's still good for an efficient 20+ points on any given night, though he's also benefiting greatly from the presence of Ellis on the perimeter and the return of Chandler in the middle.

2014/15 NBA Season
(14-5, 7-3 road)
(11-10, 5-6 road)
December 7, 2014
American Airlines Arena | Dallas, TX
6:30 CT
Fox Sports Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
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 93.2 (17th)
115.3 (2nd) ORtg 103.6 (22nd)
107.5 (20th) DRtg 103.8 (8th)

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