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Milwaukee vs. Dallas: Bucks Fend Off Pesky Mavs

Two in a row before the Christmas Day showdown.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks got the best of the short-handed Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, 102-95.

It is to be expected that the Mavericks will be pesky no matter who suits up for them on game day, no matter how mediocre their head coach is.

What We Learned

DeMarcus Cousins is a bully. Well, I am not sure this counts as “what we learned” since it is widely known...but, it was on full display offensively yesterday.

He started and played 28 minutes while contributing 22 points, eight rebounds, and four assists while making 8-of-15 shots. He struggled from deep but the majority of his makes came around the rim while finishing through traffic. It was enjoyable to see how the Bucks were incorporating him offensively as Jrue Holiday made some beautiful passes that led him right to the rim.

His defense did stick out last night, and not in the best way. He had a few weak closeouts that allowed whoever he was guarding to dart right past him for an easy deuce or the defense would break down that left a shooter open from deep. Regardless of the ups and downs, it is clear that there is a fit here and Boogie could help come playoff time.

Three Observations

Khris Middleton is back, baby! It has been a interesting start to the year for him as he was never really able to get into a rhythm thanks to contracting COVID-19. Thankfully, he is healthy and looks like he’s got his legs back under him. He was on fire against Dallas and was making them pay by making pull-up three-pointers and working his way to his sweet spots in the midrange game. In all, he added 26 points (8-of-14 FG), five rebounds, and seven assists in 32 minutes. He did have his moments as a distributor as he was able to find the open teammate who was streaking towards the basket after setting a screen. The five turnovers are a lot, but he more than made up for it by making two big shots in the fourth quarter.

Jrue Holiday has played like a man possessed since Giannis Antetokounmpo entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Is Giannis holding Jrue back? My column: Jokes aside, he was able to answer every Mavericks by himself, especially in the third frame where he made five baskets to turn the tide in Milwaukee’s favor. The most overlooked aspect of his game is how big of a bully he is in the post. He was punishing Dallas guards all night down there and the soft touch around the rim was the cherry on top of a beautiful performance. He dropped 24 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in 34 minutes. His scoring output the last few games is as follows, 20, 26, 40, 24, 24. Talk about stepping up in a big way!

It’s great to see Wesley Matthews contribute in a Bucks uniform again. I wasn’t the biggest fan of how he left, but thank you to the Lakers for getting rid of him and letting him come back to MKE. His fit here is obvious and I am sure he regrets jumping ship to ring chase, but he’s back now and will help the Bucks down the road. Last night against the Mavericks he added seven points in 18 minutes off the bench (plus-11). It’s taken him a little bit of time to get his legs back under him but he is starting to look comfortable out there in a Bucks uniform again. When Giannis Antetokounmpo comes back from the safety protocols, it is a safe bet to assume his production will continue to get better.

Bonus Bits

  • The Mavericks are a mess...yeah, I know, they’re down a lot of key guys, but still. Even at full health, I am not sure this team has an identity.
  • It was good to seed friend Sterling Brown get some extended run as he played 37 minutes for Dallas.
  • Grayson Allen struggled off the bench, scoring just five points. It was reported by Eric Nehm that he is dealing with a non-COVID illness, though.
  • 45.1/27.8/81.8 shooting splits for Milwaukee.
  • Pat Connaughton continues to shoot the lights out as he converted on 4-of-5 shots for nine points in 30 minutes.