Still winless in Doc Rivers’s short tenure as head coach, the Milwaukee Bucks will continue their Western Conference road trip tonight with a trip to Texas to face the Dallas Mavericks. The upside for the Bucks? Dallas is just as inconsistent as they themselves are. Perhaps that first win under new management is just around the corner.
Where We’re At
In spite of the theory of the new coach bump, the Bucks have struggled to bring it home in the couple games Doc has been around for. A competitive loss on the road to the Denver Nuggets was, unfortunately, followed by a sloppy defeat in Damian Lillard’s first road appearance in Portland. That most recent tilt went the Blazers’s way, 116-119, with Milwaukee proving their own worst enemy with a still-shoddy defense failing to overcome six turnovers in two fourth quarter minutes and mediocre late-game execution. Lillard’s 25 points (9-23 from the floor, 3-13 from three), 7 assists, and 6 rebounds were fine, if a little underwhelming given the expectations around his return. Regardless, it is clear the whole group has a long way to go to consistently cohere into something better than occasionally dangerous.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks are just kinda flailing around over there around Luka Dončić. He’s averaging nearly 38 minutes a night, scoring 34.7 (.489/.375/.780) with 9.6 assists and 8.6 rebounds to go with it. Somehow, his usage rate is still not at career-highs, either. That hasn't been enough to get the Mavs much higher than about average, especially with a poor defense (they’ve an otherwise undersized guard corps and Kyrie Irving is often unavailable/a sieve on that end) keeping them anchored to the back half of the West’s playoff picture. Without Dončić or Irving, an 87-121 butt kicking at the hands of the Timberwolves on Wednesday (which I had the pleasure of seeing in-person so I could heckle Jason Kidd) was the best Dallas could manage when down to a bunch of guys who, frankly, cannot competently score. Grant Williams will probably shoot 10-13 from three against the Bucks just because.
Andre Jackson Jr. is listed as questionable for the Bucks with a right wrist sprain, while Dallas has a bevy of issues: Dante Exum is out with right knee soreness, Kyrie Irving (right thumb sprain) and Dereck Lively II (nose fracture) are doubtful, Derrick Jones Jr. (left wrist sprain) is questionable, and Maxi Kleber (nose fracture) is probable.
Player to Watch
I’m really struggling to find someone worth focusing in on here, so we’ll pick Grant Williams who arrived in Dallas via free agency last summer. While never a true Giannis Antetokounmpo-stopper in the traditional sense, he has the combination of size, strength, and willingness to game the system that could prevent Antetokounmpo from finding a lethal rhythm. Don’t be surprised to see Williams tested early before the Bucks decide whether they need to pivot based on the results.
How to Watch
Bally Sports WI at 7:30 PM CST
Game 49: Against the Mavericks, the Bucks will...
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Win big (by 10 or more points)
Win close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose close (by 9 or fewer points)
Lose big (by 10 or more points)