Bucks Preview: Game 20 at Trail Blazers

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The Bucks head to Portland tonight as they look for their 11th win of the season.

portland trail blazers (13-8)

  • 41-41 last season, lost in first round of playoffs
  • 51-71 against Bucks all-time
  • Lead the league in rap albums released by their best player

offensive key

This season, the Trail Blazers have given up an average of 39 rebounds in wins and an average of 46 rebounds in losses. They’ve also held their opponents to 8 offensive rebounds a game in wins and 10 offensive rebounds a game in losses. In other words, if the Bucks can pad their rebound totals tonight with a few offensive rebounds, they’ll have more second-chance points and put themselves in a better position to win.

defensive key

When the Trail Blazers have tallied 20 assists or more this season, they’ve gone undefeated at 7-0. When they’ve been held to fewer than 20 assists, though, they’re a mediocre 6-8. In other words, limiting Portland’s assists will be crucial for the Bucks tonight. If the Bucks can use their length to limit the Blazers to 19 assists or fewer, they’ll be well on their way to their eleventh win of the season.

Tune in at 9:00 PM CT to see if the Bucks can go 3-1 on the West Coast road trip!

Game 19: Bucks 112 – Kings 87

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The Bucks looked for their tenth win of the season as they faced the Kings in Sacramento.

 

The Bucks starters were:

Eric Bledsoe

Tony Snell

Khris Middleton

Giannis Antetkounmpo

John Henson

 

The Kings starters were:

De’Aaron Fox

George Hill

Zach Randolph

Garrett Temple

Skal Labissiere

 

Zach Randolph started things off for Sacramento with a short two as the Kings scored the first four points of the game. The Bucks came back a few minutes later, though, and held an 18-15 lead midway through the opening quarter thanks to 11 points from Giannis. From there, the Bucks continued to play great defense and shoot well over 50% to extend their lead to 30-22 with 90 seconds left in the first. The Kings pulled it back a bit to close out the quarter, but the Bucks still led 32-26 after one. Giannis led all scorers with 11 points, followed by Garrett Temple with 9, and Zach Randolph with 6. The Bucks barely outshot the Kings 59%-56% and were outrebounded 11-8, but used 5 steals (compared to Sacramento’s 1) to win the quarter.

Malcolm Brogdon opened the second for the Bucks with a finger roll, and Milwaukee scored the first 5 points of the quarter to make it a 14-4 run. Bogdan Bogdanovic ended the run with a long 2, and followed that up with an alley-oop to Willie Cauley-Stein to make it 37-30 in favor of the Bucks. The Bucks scored the next 5 points, though, to give them a 42-30 lead midway through the second. They eventually made it a 12-0 run, and it wasn’t until there were four minutes left in the half that Zach Randolph ended the run with a long 2. Eric Bledsoe responded with a corner 3 after that, and the Bucks closed out the half strong to earn a big 61-37 lead. Bledsoe led all scorers with 18 points (along with 2 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals), followed by Giannis with 13 (along with 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, and a block), and Khris Middleton with 12. The Bucks outshot the Kings 58%-40% from the field and 46%-33% from distance, outrebounded the Kings 23-19, and held a 15-7 lead in assists and a big 10-2 advantage in steals.

Skal Labissiere began the third for the Kings with a putback of a Zach Randolph midrange miss, and the Kings got to within 19 points two minutes in. Eric Bledsoe and Tony Snell responded with back-to-back threes for the Bucks to deny the comeback, and the Bucks kept making shots to lead 78-46 (!) midway through the third. A pair of Giannis free throws with 5 minutes left then made it a 35-point Bucks lead at 82-47. From there, the Bucks maintained their lead (which was built by Giannis and his 19 third quarter points) to close out the quarter with a 92-59 lead. Giannis led all scorers with 32 points, and he was followed by Bledsoe with 21, and Temple with 18. The Bucks outshot the Kings 60%-36% from the field, 53%-29% from three-point range, and had 20 assists to Sacramento’s 11.

Malcolm Brogdon kicked off the fourth for the Bucks with another finger roll, and the Bucks hit 100 when the Kings only had 70. The Kings kept fighting and kept making baskets, but the Bucks didn’t loosen their grip at all and still led 105-75 at the midway point. The starters didn’t play any of the fourth quarter, but the bench unit kept the Kings at more than arms-length the rest of the way. The Bucks ended up winning the game 112-87 as they outshot the Kings 59%-41% from the field and 41%-30% from range, had 26 assists to Sacramento’s 15, and had 13 steals to Sacramento’s 5. The Kings did outrebound the Bucks 40-38, as the Bucks only recorded a single offensive rebound at the very end of the game.

three big things

Giannis Antetokounmpo – Giannis had his best game in a few weeks, as he finished with 32 points on an efficient 11-16 night from the field, and also tallied 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals, and a block in just 26 minutes of action. His 19 third-quarter points were also crucial in building an insurmountable lead and deflating the Kings in the second half. Giannis looked as good as he did in the season’s first few games tonight, and if he didn’t sit the entire fourth quarter he easily could have finished with 40+ points.

Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe did exactly what he was brought in to do tonight, as he played second fiddle to Giannis perfectly. Bledsoe finished with 21 points on 7-10 shooting (3-4 from the field), and he also added 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals in 23 minutes of action. This was one of his best games so far in a Bucks uniform, and the Bucks will win a lot more down the road if he and Giannis can keep complementing each other like they did tonight.

Steals – The Bucks built their lead early on with defense, and steals were a huge part of that. Milwaukee had 5 assists in each of the first two quarters, and each steal seemed to spark a big basket in the second quarter as they really built their lead. Giannis and Bledsoe combined for 8 of the team’s 13 steals, so they really led the team both offensively and defensively tonight. The Bucks are built for a steal-happy defense, and when it works out it’s a joy to behold.

plus/minus hero

Tony Snell – Every Bucks starter was over +20 tonight, but Snell was the only one above +30 at +32. He had a very efficient, Snell-like night with 9 points on 3-3 from the field and 2-2 from distance, and he also grabbed 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal, and a block in 30 minutes of action. While Snell usually steps back to Giannis, Bledsoe, and Middleton, Bucks fans should not forget how lucky we are to have him.

Well, that was fun. The Bucks are back in action on Thursday night in Portland. Tune in at 9:00 PM CT then to see if they can go to 11-9!

Bucks Preview: Game 19 at Kings

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After losing to the Jazz, the Bucks look to get back over .500 tonight in Sacramento against the Kings.

Sacramento kings (6-14)

  • 32-50 last season
  • 58-84 against Bucks all-time
  • Haven’t even won a conference title in the 45 years they’ve called themselves the “Kings”

offensive key

When Sacramento’s opponents have shot over 50% from the field this season, the Kings have gone 0-6. They’ve gone 6-8, though, when they’ve held their opponents to 50% shooting or below. This means that the Bucks can give themselves a good chance to win if they shoot over 50%. This is obviously easier said than done, but if they can space the floor and rack up some early points in the paint they will be well on their way.

defensive key

This season, the Kings have averaged five more assists per game in wins (23.8) than in losses (18.6). On top of that, they’re 6-3 when they’ve hit 20 assists or more and 0-11 when they’ve recorded fewer than 20 assists. In other words, if the Bucks can hold the Kings to 19 assists or fewer, early season results have shown us that they will very likely leave Sacramento with a win. The best way to do this would be to clog up the passing lanes and force a lot of turnovers.

Tune in at 9:00 PM CT to see if the Bucks can grab the road win!

Bucks Preview: Game 18 at Jazz

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After ending their two-game skid, the Bucks are back in action tonight in Utah against the Jazz.

Utah Jazz (8-11)

  • 51-31 last season, lost in second round of playoffs
  • 52-43 against Bucks all-time
  • Longtime home to one of the best players in NBA history, Karl Malone, but “The Mailman” is also one of the worst nicknames in NBA history, so it’s kind of a wash

offensive key

This season, when the Jazz have allowed 19 assists or fewer, they’ve gone 7-4. When they’ve allowed 20 assists or more, though, they’ve gone 1-7. In other words, the Bucks will need to keep the ball moving on the offensive side of things and try to rack up 20 or more assists. If they can do that, they’ll tire out the Jazz defensively and likely force them to play from behind, which will give the Bucks a solid chance to grab their tenth win of the season.

defensive key

When the Jazz record 45 rebounds or more, they’re 4-1 on the season. When they record 44 rebounds or fewer, they’re 4-10 on the season. They also average more offensive rebounds in wins than losses. Taken together, that means that the Bucks will have to limit Utah’s rebounding to 44 boards or fewer, and limit their offensive rebounding in particular. If they can own the defensive glass and not give up too many second-chance points, the Bucks will make it much easier on themselves offensively.

Tune in at 8:00 PM CT to see if the Bucks can get their tenth win of the season!

Bucks Preview: Game 17 at Suns

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After dropping the last two games, the Bucks look to get back in the win column tonight in Phoenix.

Phoenix suns (7-11)

  • 24-58 last season
  • 70-68 against Bucks all-time
  • 7-8 since their 0-3 start that ultimately got Eric Bledsoe to the Bucks

offensive key

When the Suns have won this season, they’ve been able to keep their opponents to an average of 8 made three-pointers. When they’ve lost, though, they’ve given up an average of 12 three-pointers. That means that the Bucks can help themselves win by making a bunch of three-pointers (I know it sounds crazy, but just trust me). They average 9.4 made three-pointers a game, so 12 is well within reach. Mirza Teletovic (their leader in three-pointers made per game) and Matthew Dellavedova (who is fifth on the team in three-pointers made per game) are both out for tonight’s game, so it will come down to Tony Snell, Malcolm Brogdon, and Khris Middleton.

defensive key

In their seven wins this season, the Suns have averaged 23 assists. In their eleven losses, they’ve averaged just 18 assists. In other words, the defensive key tonight is limiting Phoenix’s assist totals. That means that the Bucks will need to disrupt passing lanes and rack up a few steals, which is basically what they’re built to do with all the length they have. It will be tough without John Henson’s disruptive length on the defensive end (as he’s out tonight too), but if they can hold the Suns under 20 assists, they should be able to secure their ninth win of the season.

Tune in at 8:00 PM CT to see if the Bucks can get back over .500!

Searching For Malcolm Brogdon

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When the Milwaukee Bucks were able to trade for Eric Bledsoe without really sacrificing any of their young core, fans everywhere rejoiced. There was a question of whether Bledsoe would replace Malcolm Brogdon or Tony Snell in the starting lineup, but it didn’t really matter because Bledsoe would provide a clear boost over either of those players. Bledsoe ended up replacing Brogdon, and it worked out just as expected for the first four games, as the Bucks went from a four-game losing streak immediately pre-Bledsoe to a four-game winning streak immediately post-Bledsoe.

The honeymoon has ended with the last two games, though, as the Bucks got crushed by a pathetic Mavericks team and thoroughly outplayed by the Wizards the next time out. What happened? Well, it all seems to come down to (the benching of) last year’s rookie of the year, Malcolm Brogdon.

Brogdon’s bench blues

Allow me to present some numbers comparing Brogdon’s time as a starter with his time off the bench:

Starter Reserve
Games 9 6
MPG 33.6 27.1
USG% 20.4% 18.4%
PPG 16.2 8.5
RPG 2.2 3.2
APG 4.9 1.8
FG% 51% 37%
3PTFG% 49% 39%

First of all, you can see that Brogdon has still played a few more games as a starter than he has off the bench, but we’ll mostly be talking about per-game stats so this doesn’t matter too much. Now, notice that while he’s obviously averaged more minutes per game as a starter, he’s not too far behind in minutes per game off the bench. Most importantly, his usage rate is about 20% regardless of whether he has started or come off the bench. In other words, while you might think that a starter would obviously get more opportunity than a bench player, Brogdon’s shift to the bench has not come with a significant reduction in either minutes or usage rate.

Now that that’s out of the way, we can look at the difference in how he has played. As a reserve, he has increased his rebounds per game from 2.2 to 3.2. That’s the only good news, though, as he has dropped hard in just about every other stat. He’s scoring a bit over half of what he was as a starter, and his assists have plummeted as have his shooting percentages (although his 3-point percentage is still good, he was shooting so well as a starter that it’s still a big difference). Remember, his minutes and usage rate are not that different than when he was a starter, so you can’t just chalk this up to playing time. You could argue that he has less on-court help when he comes off the bench, which is true, but if anything that just means the Bucks need him to step it up even more when he does play.

Now, you might be confused, because while Brogdon’s output has clearly dropped off, the Bucks still had a four-game winning streak when he moved to the bench. This just means we need to dig a little deeper. Compare Brogdon’s first four games off the bench to his last two:

First 4 games Last 2 games
MPG 28.1 25.1
PPG 11.8 2
RPG 4.3 1
APG 2 1.5
SPG 1.5 0.5

Now this is where it gets interesting. During the first four games (which the Bucks all won), Brogdon was playing like a great sixth man. This makes sense, because Jason Kidd told us that he dealt with being benched like a true professional (which fits in with what we know about Malcolm Brogdon as a player and a person). During the last two games (both Bucks losses), though, he has completely fallen off, playing like a typical sophomore bit player instead of the reigning rookie of the year. Aside from the above stats, Brogdon’s last two games have also resulted in his only two negative game scores of the season (and two of the four worst game scores of his career), and two of his three lowest plus/minus marks of the season.

I’m not exactly sure how to explain this, because he still played a full 50 minutes in those last two games off the bench. His usage rate did drop a bit from the first four games, but that’s at least partially due to the fact that he just wasn’t playing very well. One thing is clear, though: Brogdon’s struggles are solidly correlated with the team’s struggles.

Where do we go from here?

So what does this all mean? Should the Bucks give up on Malcolm Brogdon and write off his rookie of the year campaign as a fluke? Absolutely not, because it’s clear that the team plays better when he’s doing well. In fact, these numbers should serve to retroactively strengthen his case for last season’s rookie of the year award, if anything.

Should the Bucks bench Bledsoe and start Brogdon again? Probably not, because Bledsoe’s effect on the team’s defensive rating is undeniable, and he’s clearly a better player all around (due to experience, if nothing else). Should they bench Snell and bring Brogdon in for a dual-point guard situation? Well, Snell is still second in the entire league in true shooting percentage, so that’s probably not the answer. In other words, it looks like Brogdon’s just gonna have to figure out coming off the bench.

There is reason to be optimistic, though. Just as Bledsoe will only get more comfortable with his new team as the games roll on, so will Brogdon with the second unit. That is, as Brogdon develops more chemistry with Thon Maker, DeAndre Liggins, Matthew Dellavedova, and the other prominent bench players, we can expect his numbers to go back up.

While we can be optimistic, there is also a sense of urgency, as the last two games have shown us that the Bucks simply do not look like a playoff team when Brogdon is off. The starting unit could start playing more consistently to back up Giannis, but it’s Brogdon that really needs to step it up. If he can figure out how to make an impact off the bench (as he did in the first four games after the Bledsoe trade), he will not only replace Greg Monroe’s role on the team, he may just be able to follow up his rookie of the year season with a sixth man of the year season.

At the end of the day, whether or not he can step it up off the bench may just be the difference for the Bucks between an eighth seed (or missing the playoffs altogether) and a fourth or fifth seed. While I’m not exactly sure what Brogdon and the Bucks need to do to get his game back to pre-benching levels, it’s clear that something needs to be done. We’ll be following along all season here at Bucks Wire, though, and we’ll try to keep you in the loop.

Game 16: Bucks 88 – Wizards 99

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The Bucks hosted the Washington Wizards as they looked for their ninth win of the season.

 

The Bucks starters were:

Eric Bledsoe

Tony Snell

Khris Middleton

Giannis Antetokounmpo

John Henson

 

The Wizards starters were:

John Wall

Bradley Beal

Otto Porter Jr.

Markieff Morris

Marcin Gortat

 

Markieff Morris kicked things off for the Wizards with a short jumper, but the Bucks scored seven of the next eight points to grab an early lead. The Wizards scored the next eight points after that, though, and were up 11-7 by midway through the opening quarter. Washington eventually expanded that to a 14-0 run, but Giannis finally, mercifully, ended it with a hard driving layup to make it 17-9. It stayed even for the rest of the quarter, and a long, buzzer-beating 2 from Thon Maker made it 27-19 Wizards at the end of the quarter. Bradley Beal led all scorers with 9, followed by 8 from Giannis and 7 from Otto Porter Jr. The Wizards outshot the Bucks 55%-37%, and outrebounded them 13-9 to open the game.

DeAndre Liggins opened the second for the Bucks with a nice three, but the Bucks couldn’t get within a single possession for the first few minutes of the quarter. By the six minute mark, the Wizards held on to a solid 39-31 lead. The Bucks then ripped off six straight points (capped by Bledsoe’s second steal-and-score of the game) to pull within two for the first time all quarter, and a Khris Middleton to John Henson alley-oop a bit after that finally tied the game up. Giannis then followed up with a layup to make it a 10-0 run and give the Bucks their first lead since the opening minutes. The Wizards tied it up to end the run, and were able to reclaim the lead and go into halftime up 47-46. Beal led all scorers with 11, and Giannis and Otto Porter Jr. each put in 10. The Wizards outshot the Bucks 50%-44% from the field and 31%-18% from beyond the arc, but the Bucks made up the difference with 7 steals (5 from Eric Bledsoe alone) to Washington’s 3.

Giannis started things off for the Bucks with a long two, and they started the third with a 9-3 run to grab and build a lead. The Wizards promptly tied it up at 55, though, and led 58-57 by midway through the third. It stayed even after that with both offenses stalling a bit, and the Wizards led 66-64 with two minutes left. The Wizards (and specifically Bradley Beal) scored the next seven straight points, though, and it took a Gary Payton II layup under the basket to cut the Wizards lead to 73-66 going into the final quarter. Bradley Beal led all scorers with 21 points, and he was followed by Giannis with 15. The Wizards outshot the Bucks 53%-44% from the field and 40%-18% from distance. They also outrebounded the Bucks 35-25, and it was only Milwaukee’s 6-13 turnover advantage that kept them in the game after three quarters.

Giannis got fouled and made one of two free throws to begin the final quarter for the Bucks, but the Wizards were up 10 again (at 77-67) just 75 seconds into the quarter. Washington ended up starting the quarter on a 13-4 run, and held a strong 89-74 lead at the midway point. The Bucks showed a bit of life after that with a quick 5-0 run (after a nice Eric Bledsoe three) to pull within 12, prompting a Wizards timeout. Marcin Gortat put in a little hook floater off the timeout to end Milwaukee’s run, but the Bucks were finally able to get within 10 points with 90 seconds left after Eric Bledsoe made it 97-88. John Wall subsequently got fouled and made both free throws, though, and the Wizards were able to ultimately ice away a 99-88 win to go to 10-7 on the season. Bradley Beal and Giannis both had a game-high 23 points, and Kelly Oubre Jr. followed with 18. The Bucks did have an impressively low 9 turnovers compared to Washington’s 16, but that was about the only stat they bested the Wizards in.

Three big things

Bradley Beal – Beal was the biggest offensive threat on the court all night, as he led all scorers at the end of each quarter. He finished with 23 points on 10-16 shooting (2-5 from three-point range) and also added 5 assists, a steal, and a block. Wall was a game-time decision and stepped back this game, but Beal had no problem leading the offense to an easy win. The Wizards have four or five guys who can hang 20+ on you on any given night, and tonight Beal showed that he can be that guy more often than not.

D.C. Dominance – While the Bucks were able to mask it with a nice 10-0 run in the second, they were flat-out outplayed tonight. They were outshot 53%-44% from the field (and 39%-18% from beyond the arc), outrebounded 46-33, and only had 17 assists to Washington’s 23. The Wizards visibly pulled away in the third, but they controlled this game all the way through. Giannis put in his part, and while the rest of the Bucks starters scored in double figures (Middleton with 15, Bledsoe with 14, and Henson and Snell with 10 each), they needed a few more outstanding individual performances.

Gary Payton II Jason Kidd missed today’s game because of the birth of his daughter, so Joe Prunty took the reins, and he appears to be a Gary Payton II fan. Payton II got 15 minutes tonight (almost double the game time he had logged the whole season before this, though he has spent a lot of time with the Wisconsin Herd), and put in 8 points on an efficient 4-6 night from the field. He also added a steal, had the third-best plus/minus mark on the team, and was a big part of the 10-0 run in the second quarter that gave them a chance. Anyone who follows me on twitter knows how much I love Gary Payton II, and if he keeps playing like this you all will too. He did have 4 fouls in his first 9 minutes, though, which kept him from having even more minutes, so he’ll have to watch that.

Plus/minus hero

Eric Bledsoe – Bledsoe was a big reason this game wasn’t even a bigger loss for the Bucks, as his 6 steals and 2 blocks show his impact on the defensive end. While he still hasn’t had a huge offensive game for the Bucks, his defensive effect on the first six games is undeniable. Bledsoe also put in 14 points on 6-13 from the field tonight, along with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. If he can just start scoring at a more consistent clip, the Bucks will get back to their winning ways no problem.

Well, the Bucks are back to .500 at 8-8. Tune in on Wednesday night at 8:00 PM CT as the Bucks head to Phoenix!

Bucks Preview: Game 16 vs Wizards

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After an embarrassing loss against the struggling Mavericks, the Bucks look to start a new winning streak tonight as they host the Washington Wizards.

Washington wizards (9-7)

  • 49-33 last season, lost in second round of playoffs
  • 90-115 against Bucks all-time
  • Home to the best backcourt in the league, in case John Wall and Bradley Beal haven’t told you yet

Offensive key

The Bucks got blown out by the Mavs two nights ago because they just did not have enough ball movement during their offensive possessions, and it showed in their assist totals. Getting a lot of assists will be key tonight, especially against the Wizards. Washington has allowed over 20 assists in every game they’ve lost this season, while they’ve only allowed 20 assists in two of their nine wins. If the Bucks want to win this game and get back on a win streak, they need to hit 20 assists or more.

defensive key

It’s an old adage in the NBA that the first team to score 100 points usually wins. Surely, 100 is just an arbitrary mark and can’t mean that much, right? Well, when the Wizards score 100 points or more, they’re 9-3. When they score under 100 points, they’re 0-4 (including two games right at 99 points). That means that the defensive key is simple: to stop the Wizards from scoring 100 points. If they can, Milwaukee won’t need to rely on a huge offensive night to grab the win.

Tune in at 7:00 PM CT to see if the Bucks can score a big home win!

Game 15: Bucks 79 – Mavericks 111

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The Bucks went for their fifth straight win as they took on the Mavericks in Dallas.

 

The Bucks starters were:

Eric Bledsoe

Tony Snell

Khris Middleton

Giannis Antetokounmpo

John Henson

 

The Mavericks starters were:

Dennis Smith Jr.

Wesley Matthews

Harrison Barnes

Maximilian Kleber

Dirk Nowitzki

 

Eric Bledsoe kicked things off for the Bucks with a big alley-oop to John Henson, but the game opened pretty evenly as it was tied at 5 early on. By midway through the opening quarter, though, the Bucks had built out a small 13-10 lead. Yogi Ferrell tied it up immediately after that with a 3, and before long the Mavs had a lead of their own at 17-16. The Mavs took advantage of this early lead, kept making shots, and build it out to a 28-20 advantage near the end of the first quarter. Khris Middleton responded to cut the deficit to 6, but the Mavs kept pushing and increased their lead to 33-24 by the end of the first (and it was only that close because of a DeAndre Liggins buzzer-beater). Khris Middleton led all scorers with 9 points, and he was followed by Wesley Matthews with 8 and Dwight Powell with 7.

Dirk Nowitzki extended the lead with a 3 to start the second for the Mavs, but Eric Bledsoe responded by bringing the Bucks back to within 10 with a layup. It didn’t get much better for the Bucks by midway through the second quarter, though, as the Mavs found themselves up 45-32 after a Dennis Smith Jr. 3. The Mavs stayed more than 10 points ahead for the next few minutes, until the Bucks pulled within 9 with about 3 minutes left. A J.J. Barea 3 after that put the Mavs lead back to double-figures, and another Barea 3 right after that put their lead back at 15, at 54-39. It was just that kind of half for the Bucks as they went into the locker room down 56-44 at halftime. Khris Middleton led all scorers with 13 points, followed by 11 apiece from Harrison Barnes and Giannis (who also had 11 rebounds for an early double-double). The Mavs outshot the Bucks 48% to 43% from the field, 47% to 18% from distance, and 100% to 50% from the charity stripe as Dallas thoroughly outplayed Milwaukee in the first 24 minutes.

Harrison Barnes got fouled and sunk both free throws to start things off for the Mavs in the third quarter, and they did well to hold on to their double-digit lead early in the second half. The Bucks played just a bit better in the earlygoing than the Mavs, though, and a Khris Middleton reverse layup under the basket brought the Bucks to within single figures with about eight and a half minutes to go. Barea hit yet another 3 in response, though, and the Mavs were still up 72-57 midway through the third quarter (and it was only that close because of a Giannis 3 right around the 6 minute mark). To round out the quarter, the Bucks couldn’t really chip away at the Dallas lead, and the Mavs actually increased their lead to go into the final quarter up 82-61. Giannis led all scorers with 21, Wesley Matthews followed him with 20, and Khris Middleton put in 15.

Dwight Powell got fouled and made one of his free throws to open up the fourth quarter for the Mavs, and Dallas held on tight to their 20-point lead early in the final quarter. By the midway point of the final quarter, the Mavs had all but sealed up a win with a 96-72 lead over a Bucks team that just did not have an answer for Dallas’s three-point shooting. The rest of the quarter was basically the same story of the whole night, and the Mavs walked away with a 111-79 blowout win, their third of the season. Giannis led all scorers with 24, followed by 23 from Khris Middleton and 22 from Wesley Matthews. The Mavs outshot the Bucks 48% to 38% from the field, 50% to 25% from three-point range (which is really the story of the night), and 84% to 55% from the free-throw line. The Mavs also outrebounded the Bucks 49-38, so this was a pretty thorough whupping for the Bucks.

Three big things

Ball Movement and Assists – At halftime, a big reason the Mavs were up is that they had 17 assists to Milwaukee’s 5. This discrepancy didn’t get much better by the end of the game, as the Mavs finished with 27 assists and the Bucks finished with 13. While the Bucks were mediocre on a lot of fronts tonight, their offense was anemic almost the entire game, and that was a big reason they lost. The Bucks are at their best when they’re whipping it around for wide open shots, and their offense will have a tough time if they’re not getting a good number of assists, as tonight showed.

Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea – Wisconsin-born-and-bred Matthews and Puerto Rico-born Barea will cause Bucks fans to have nightmares tonight, as they combined for 42 Dallas points. Matthews finished with 22 points on 8-14 shooting, including 6-8 (!) from beyond the arc, as well as 2 rebounds, 8 assists, and 2 steals. Barea finished with 20 points on 5-10 from the floor (and 4-7 from distance), as well as 3 rebounds and 7 assists. These two killed the Bucks all night, particularly from the three-point line, and the Bucks will need to either figure out a way to stop opponents’ three-point shooting or find an offensive answer when getting waterboarded with shots from behind the arc.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton – While the Bucks were fairly pathetic offensively all night, Giannis and Khris Middleton took care of business as the only Milwaukee players in double figures. Giannis finished with 24 points (but on a less-than-ideal 7-20 shooting night), 17 (!) rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 steals. Middleton finished with 23 points on an efficient 9-12 from the field and 3-5 from distance. Anytime these two are combining for nearly 50, you can’t ask for much more from them, so this one falls on the other Bucks offensively. Still, Giannis has continued his great offensive start to the season. going for 20 in every game except one, when he only scored 14. Middleton has also continued his recent solid offensive form, which is great for the Bucks.

plus/minus hero

Jason Terry/Rashad Vaughn/D.J. Wilson/Joel Bolomboy – These are more technical honors than anything else, as they all scored a +0 plus/minus mark in three minutes of action. Still, the next closest was John Henson at -4, and rules are rules. Terry did get a nice little welcome from the Dallas crowd when he checked in, and he made his only shot attempt to finish with 2 points. Terry and Vaughn also both recorded blocks in three minutes on the court, and that deserves celebrating. Still, we can hope that the next plus/minus hero(s) is (are) not named simply by default.

Well, that didn’t work out too well. Next up for the Bucks is a tough test against the Wizards in Milwaukee on Monday. Tune in then to see the Bucks try to start a new winning streak!

Bucks Preview: Game 15 at Mavericks

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The Bucks take on the worst-in-the-NBA Dallas Mavericks tonight as they look to make it five wins in a row.

Dallas Mavericks (2-14)

  • 33-49 last season
  • 33-38 against Bucks all-time
  • Still have Dirk Nowitzki, so uh, that’s something, I guess

Offensive key

During this four-game win streak, the Bucks have recorded 11, 9, 10, and 11 offensive rebounds in each game. In comparison, the Bucks were only able to hit 9 rebounds once in their first 10 games. The main players behind this difference are John Henson (13), Giannis Antetokounmpo (10), and Thon Maker (8), who have all grabbed an offensive rebound in each game of the win streak to combine for 31 of Milwaukee’s 41 offensive boards. If the Bucks (and particularly those three) can continue extending possessions with offensive rebounds, they should be alright.

defensive key

The Mavs have only won 2 of their 16 games so far. In their two wins, though, they’ve recorded their second- and third-best shooting percentages of the season. In other words, if the Bucks can hold the Mavs to a low shooting percentage (let’s say under 45% just to put a number on it), they’ll put themselves in a good position to win. If they can throw another block party like they did last time out against the Pistons, that should help.

Tune in at 8:00 PM CT to see the Bucks take on the lowly Mavs!