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Bucks vs. Mavericks Preview: Milwaukee looks for fourth win in a row against a Dirk-less Dallas squad

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Milwaukee looks for its fourth win in a row against a Mavericks squad without Dirk Nowitzki

NBA: Preseason-Dallas Mavericks at Milwaukee Bucks Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Milwaukee enters tonight on a three-game winning streak courtesy of their Saturday night domination of the Sacramento Kings 117-91. The offensive potency they displayed the previous two games remained prevalent against a listless Kings squad that seemed disinterested in playing, let alone defending. The Bucks will look for their fourth win in a row tonight against a banged-up Dallas Mavericks squad missing Dirk Nowitzki. Milwaukee had only one four-game winning streak all of last season.

Bucks Update

The Bucks have been offensive dynamos the past three games, scoring 117, 125 and 117 — albeit against the suspect defenses of the Pelicans, Pacers and Kings. Good news for Milwaukee, the Mavericks’ defense is just as suspect so far! Giannis (17/8/8) and Jabari (19/6) helped propel Milwaukee to an easy win over the Kings last night, as the Bucks dominated from start to finish and were able to rest their starters in the fourth.

The Bucks may not keep shooting 40-plus percent from deep like they did last night, but their newfound offensive identity might not be a fluke. Eric asked Jason Kidd last night about the team firing up threes more regularly and Kidd expressed a desire to shoot at least 30 a game, a mark that would’ve placed them third in the league last year. Here’s the full quote:

Although the Bucks are sitting at only 24.5 for their season average, they’re averaging 30.6 over their last three games. The Bucks also obliterated the Kings in fast break points, and points off turnovers 29-12. Milwaukee looked to push the pace throughout, with Giannis scoring several times near the hoop by pushing forward before Sacramento could set its defense.

Without Rudy Gay, Sacramento didn’t have any competent wing players to match up against Giannis or Jabari, even subjecting poor Garrett Temple to Giannis in the post. Dallas should prove a tougher threat, where Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes and Justin Anderson are far more competent defenders. Malcolm Brogdon faces off against his former Virginia compatriot Anderson for the first time in a regular season game as well. On the surface though, without Dirk Nowitzki, this looks like another winnable game for the Bucks. [knocks on wood]

Jason Terry got a DNP-coach’s decision last night, but no one else looks to be injured for the Bucks. Let’s just hope their on-flight celebration was as tame as it may have seemed...

Maverick Update

The Mavericks have stumbled out of the gate, dropping their first five games of the season. The latest was a 10-point loss to the Portland TrailBlazers on Friday, 105-95. Granted, several of those losses have come without the services of Dirk Nowitzki, who’s already missed two games this year with an illness and will now be out at least a week with Achilles soreness. All in all, a depressing start for a team known to cobble together wins behind coach Rick Carlisle’s coaching wizardry.

On the bright side, Warriors cast-off and proud USA Basketball seat warmer, Harrison Barnes, continues to put up impressive performances for his new team with 18 points and 6 boards on (admittedly not-so-impresseive) 33% shooting from deep. J.J. Barea is picking up some of the scoring slack, second on the team with 16.4 pts/game, including a wholly unsustainable 46% from deep.

Beyond that, well, there’s a reason they’re 0-5. Dirk and Wesley Matthews are both sporting macabre statistical seasons with identical 44% true shooting percentages and near -12 net ratings. Not to mention Matthews shooting only 30% from deep on 8 attempts per game. Seth Curry and Justin Anderson remain just bit pieces averaging around 20 minutes per game, although interestingly Curry is the only player on the team (besides Salah Mejri) who gets regular minutes and has a positive net rating (13.5).

Their top-ten offense last season has dipped to 19th per NBA.com, and their league average defensive rating is now in the bottom 10 in the league. With competent defensive players like Matthews, Barnes, Bogut and Anderson, you’d expect that defensive rating to tick up some as the season continues. It’s still early for the Mavericks, and not having the centerpiece of your offense is a pretty big deal. Plus, Matthews’ shooting numbers should progress to the mean eventually.

As far as injuries beyond Dirk, Devin Harris remains out with a sore big toe, and Deron Williams is questionable with a left calf strain, although he played 36 minutes against the Trailblazers after being listed as questionable with a right groin strain.

On the Mavericks: Mavs Moneyball