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Milwaukee vs. Dallas: Missing Shots, Missing Home

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The Bucks could not buy a basket as the fourth quarter wound on...

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks dropped a disappointing game to the Dallas Mavericks, 116-101, although the final score belies a game that was fairly even for 42 minutes or so. A narrow 31-29 advantage after the first period led to just a one-point lead at halftime, 56-55, for Milwaukee despite the Mavs shooting just 6-20 from behind the arc. The Bucks recaptured a bit of control with a late third quarter run, but they went ice cold in the fourth period to close out their road trip on a two-game losing streak. They head home having gone 3-3 overall.

What We Learned

Milwaukee switched frequently throughout this entire game, in a marked difference from past seasons when we’ve seen Doncic destroy the Bucks zone drop with midrange shooting, finishing at the rim and kicking to shooters on the perimeter. For the first half at least, the gambit worked. Yes, Doncic took advantage of mismatches frequently (including abusing Connaughton twice in the final minute), but the logic made sense after a few of the Mavs big were punishing the Bucks early. Porzingis, on the other hand, wasn’t going to damage the Bucks by pushing it inside, so they relied on him to settle for jumpers.

It helped that the Mavericks weren’t hot from outside until late, but this was an excellent test to see how they could function in such a high-switch environment, particularly against a team with so many nimble bigs that prefer to shoot the triple. They faltered inside with their defensive rebounding, as is expected with no Giannis, and their paint defense suffered, but overall they made a decent effort of it even with some wonky lineups out there. Ultimately, I wouldn’t attribute this loss to any sort of egregious defensive errors, which at this point should be a considered a solid enough moral victory even if they couldn’t pull out the real W.

Three Pointers

The True Blue Big Bucks Bench Crew: As the third quarter wound down, the Mavericks were grabbing control of the score, going up 80-72 after several threes and a series of frustrating offensive possessions where Jrue Holiday found himself stonewalled. Bud went to a lineup of Teague-DiVincenzo-Connaughton-Thanasis-Portis, while Luka Doncic checked back in. Miraculously, between deflections, an Antetokounmpo charge drawn on Doncic and some delightful chemistry down low, they barreled forward on a 12-0 run to put the Bucks back in the driver’s seat ahead 84-80. Too bad the starters couldn’t pay it off in the fourth.

Brick City - Population Khris Middleton: I like Khris Middleton. You like Khris Middleton. We all like Khris Middleton. But WHOO boy was it tough sledding for the Bucks All-Star in this one. His numbers have probably eclipsed what the eye test has told us for the past month or so, but this was an entirely different kind of slump. He ended at 6-27 overall. One thing that bugged me about tonight was the preponderance of runners he chose to attempt, rather than at least hoist up a few triples. I’m not a huge fan of him going for floaters in general when he’s such a productive jump shooter, and at least a triple has more expected points if it happens to rattle in. He took just four attempts from deep.

Brook Lopez Got Weird, in a Good Way: While relatively quiet in the second half, Brook was hitting all kind of crazy turnaround midrange jumpers against Kristaps Porzingis in the first half. Stepback jumpers, wily, lethargic post-ups that turned into whirling dervishots, it was fairly incredible to watch from the aged big man. On the other end, like usual, I always think he holds up fairly well within isolation during switching. The real issue is that it takes away his presence at the basket, negating the Brook box out effect that has benefited so many teams over the years. I thought Doncic hunting smaller mismatches was more damaging to the Bucks in this one. Brook finished with 16 points on 7-11 shooting.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • Does anyone get caught running directly into a defender in the paint more than Donte? I appreciate his aggressiveness, but I don’t see too many guards get stonewalled the way he does so close to the paint. I’m never quite sure how he’s not able to draw fouls in that situation.
  • The broadcast showed Doncic’s toe, bloodied a bit, and Marques Johnson said his toenails were black for a decade following his playing days. Eek. I also thoroughly enjoyed Johnson not remembering Paschke’s Curt Schilling’s infamous bloody sock game. What a treasure.
  • Jeff Teague continued his run of serviceable play since his arrival in Milwaukee, taking Powell in iso to close the first for an old-fashioned three-point play. There were some acclimation miscues though; in the second he flipped a pass to Bobby in the corner...a second after Portis had started his baseline cut. Later, he didn’t place enough lift on a lob pass to Brook as it got deflected before it could enter orbit.
  • When Jrue Holiday wasn’t in the game, Thanasis Antetokounmpo got the primary defensive assignment on Luka Doncic. He was fine. At the very least, he provides more length as a defender than when Pat Connaughton would draw the job earlier this season. He also provided plenty of annoyance to the superstar. Khris Middleton was the other unlucky soul to have to shadow him.
  • Kudos to Porzingis for abusing the Bucks switching early in the third period when Porzingis looks like he’s waiting for a dribble hand off on the right wing but quickly pivoted to a drive. Lopez had no chance, and he slammed it home.
  • If you want an example of the switching still clearly in process, tune into around 7:50 of the third period, when a cluster of Donte, Brook and Portis globbed together in the paint, frantically trying to recover to an assignment.
  • Donte DiVincenzo had his shot flowing for this one, going for 22 points on 7-13 shooting. His ugly turnover late was frustrating though.

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