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Bucks vs. Mavericks Preview: Four-game road trip begins in Dallas against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs

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Dallas currently holds an 8-5 record at home.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks will be spending the New Year holiday on the road, but before they can tear off the last page of the 2015 calendar, there are still three games to be played. Milwaukee tips off their four-game road trip in Dallas tonight against Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks, who have won three of their last four games and currently sit in 5th place in the Western Conference.

Bucks Update

Many of the names you see in the bylines of this site were on hand to witness the fourth-quarter demolition doled out by the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, and let me tell you: the atmosphere afterwards was not one of holiday cheer. It could perhaps most accurately be described as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Or maybe this. It's a few days early for New Year's resolutions, but after seeing the Bucks get crushed by Toronto in familiar fashion, we're starting to feel desperate.

The problem isn't just seeing Milwaukee lose. The Eastern Conference is much improved, the Bucks have significantly regressed in nearly every facet of the game, and playoff aspirations are dangling by only the thinnest of threads. If it hasn't already been disposed of, that goal is not long for this world.

No, the problem is the familiar mistakes and bad tendencies that show up night after night. For all the clamoring about playing time for certain young players, there is nobody, save for Greg Monroe and possibly Khris Middleton, who has shown a consistent ability to play high-impact basketball for this team. We could forgive the losses if they weren't accompanied by a checked-out Giannis Antetokounmpo, or yet another cut behind the turned head of Jabari Parker.

Milwaukee is seven games under .500. Not yet at the midpoint of the season, that's not indicative of a team that has no idea how to win games. They beat the Warriors! Heck, they were leading the Raptors at the start of the fourth quarter on Saturday! Surely they know what they're supposed to do, but the gap between knowing and doing seems so gaping at times that it's a wonder how things ever come together in the right configuration. Even if a playoff push is already out of reach, there's no good end served by continuing to flail in obscurity. Milwaukee is a month or so of continued subpar performances away from full-blown evaluation mode and everybody has something to prove. We will all feel much better, record notwithstanding, if they start showing out.

*end vent*

Injury update: Jerryd Bayless (ankle) is listed as questionable for tonight's game, while John Henson ("a bunch of stuff") says he hopes to suit up.

Mavericks Scouting Report

Congratulations are in order for Dirk Nowitzki, who recently passed Shaquille O'Neal for the sixth spot on the NBA's all-time scoring leaderboard. Even at age 37, Dirk has been playing fantastic ball this season, shooting over 40% from three and rebounding nearly as effectively as he ever has.

Yet the Mavericks as a whole remain an average team in nearly every sense of the word. The closest team in the NBA to a perfect 0.0 in Basketball-Reference.com's Simple Rating System, Dallas has the statistical profile of a .500 team, yet here they sit four games above an even record and within striking distance of the third seed in the Western Conference Playoff picture.

It's a bit of a surprise the Mavs aren't a better offensive team than they are. The ingredients all seem to be there. They have plus shooters at multiple positions and they hoist a lot of threes (No. 4 in three-point attempt rate), and only three teams turn the ball over less than they do. But Dallas is just 21st in team three-point percentage, and they don't grab many offensive rebounds, forgoing one of the big advantages for high-volume three point shooting teams.

The Mavs are currently on a two-game winning streak and have won four of their last six. The Bucks are the second of five home games they'll play until January 5. Besides Saturday's matchup against the Bulls and Wednesday's against Golden State, it's a fair slate for them with two games against the Pelicans and another against the Kings.

Daily Fantasy Tip

Even in a sub-par game by his recent standards, Michael Carter-Williams managed a decent fantasy performance against the Raptors. Facing a far less formidable defender in J.J. Barea tonight (Deron Williams remains out with a hamstring injury), MCW should be able to pile up some decent numbers.

SB Nation's partner FanDuel is running a FREE money fantasy basketball league for new members tonight. Half of the league wins cash. Join now!

(Editor's Note: all the opinions expressed here are my own. FanDuel gave me some cash to play daily fantasy games)

On the Mavericks: Mavs Moneyball

2015/2016 NBA Season
Dallas mavericks.vb420f3b
(17-13, 8-5 home)
vs.

(12-19, 3-13 road)
December 20, 2015
American Airlines Center | Dallas, TX
7:30 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Raymond Felton PG Michael Carter-Williams
J.J. Barea SG Khris Middleton
Wes Matthews SF Giannis Antetokounmpo
Dirk Nowitzki PF Jabari Parker
Zaza Pachulia C Greg Monroe
2015/16 Advanced Stats
96.1 (14th) Pace 93.6 (26th)
105.2 (13th) ORtg 102.3 (25th)
104.8 (1th) DRtg 108.6 (27th)