by mavsluvr at 01-16-2021, 02:34 AM
BUCKS EDGE SHORT-STAFFED MAVERICKS
Missing five rotation players, the Mavs made a game of it against the league’s #1 offense. But it was still frustrating to come so close, earn so many opportunities, and not come away with the win. There is no shame in losing to the Bucks, especially under the circumstances, but I didn’t get a sense that they were just beaten by a better team. More that just too many things went wrong for them to get over the hump. Neither squad unduly impressed.
Acknowledging that you can’t really criticize the result, when Dallas didn’t even have their usual team, there was a distinct element of the Mavs shooting themselves in the foot with poor shots, poor free-throw shooting, poor decisions, and mistakes. We might as well take a look at that.
Brunson, DFS, Maxi, Richardson, and Powell were all still out pursuant to the COVID protocols.
Rick selected the same starting lineup as he used last game — Luka, THJ, Iwundu, KP, and Willie.
The Mavs got off to a pretty dreadful start. They were getting mostly decent to good looks, but there was just a lid on the basket. They were able to score only 22 points in the first quarter, and finished the frame 22-30. They maintained a small lead for a few minutes, but lost it five minutes in and never led again, save for 42 seconds in the fourth quarter.
Things went from bad to worse in the second, with the Bucks quickly building a game-high 14-point lead, and it looked like Milwaukee might put the game away. But a motley crew of players, including rookies Josh Green and Tyrell Terry, managed to chip away at the deficit. Giannis was called for his third foul midway through the period, and the Mavs took advantage of his absence from the floor to draw within 2 at the 1:43 mark. Then, they had a horrible close to the half. They had 4 shots on one possession, and still never managed to score; gave up a three off an offensive rebound; allowed another three on the next possession, did not score at all, and lost the quarter by a point. 47-55.
The teams exchanged a couple of runs in the third, after which the Mavs hung around, trailing the Bucks by 6 points or less in the second half of the period. Luka drew Giannis’ fourth foul early in the frame, but Dallas was not able to take enough advantage to draw ahead. The Mavs did shoot much better, especially THJ, who saved the team’s bacon with 13 points on 5-6 shooting, including 3-3 3PTAs. But they allowed the Bucks 19 rebounds in the quarter, including 8 offensive boards, and it totally killed their momentum. Still, they managed to win the quarter by a few points, and the scoreline read 81-84 after three.
The Mavericks tied the game briefly early in the fourth, and then stayed within a small margin for most of the quarter, just never able to string together a few good possessions, and the Bucks punished every mistake. Finally, Luka started to take over, and the team gained its final lead of 2 points on a James Johnson three, followed by a free throw from Willie with 2:39 remaining. At 0:36, Dallas was down 2 with possession. They moved the ball to Trey Burke, who missed a three. Willie grabbed the offensive rebound, and spent a second or two looking around for someone to offload the ball to. Porzingis took an off-balance three that hit nothing but the far side of the glass, and then it took a couple of seconds for the Mavs to figure out they needed to foul. Luka openly took Carlisle to task for not having called a timeout. The Bucks made their free throws, and the Mavs lost by three points.
Neither team shot especially well. The Mavs’ three-point shooting was tanked, courtesy of Luka and KP combining to go 3-14. The rest of the Mavs were a sparkling 10-19 from long range. The Mavs were awarded only 13 FTAs, compared to 25 for the Bucks. Both teams were miserable from the line, with Giannis himself hitting an abysmal one of ten. This is a pet peeve of mine, but I really don’t understand how this Mavs team doesn’t make its free throws. They missed 7 of their 13 attempts, which was more than twice the final difference in the game. Grr. Rebounding really undid Dallas, with the Bucks grabbing 16 offensive boards and putting up a whopping 22 second-chance points. Yikes! Mavs’ high scorers were Luka with 28 points, THJ 22, KP 15, Burke and Johnson 13 each, and Willie with 11.
THJ put up 22 points and 6 rebounds in a team-high 37 minutes, and was arguably the team's best player in some stretches. Without his shooting, the Mavs aren’t in this game. He was 4-9 beyond the arc, and carried the squad in the third quarter. This is the offensive game the Mavs need Tim to play. One need only look at Khris Middleton to observe the impact a great third option can have. Hopefully, he’ll keep up the good work.
Luka came near a triple-double, with a 28/9/13 line, and only three turnovers. If one were to offer Luka a little constructive criticism, it might start with his three-point shooting (1-7) and free-throw shooting (3-7).
Rick might instead start with Luka’s arguing with him about not taking a timeout before or during the possession where Mavs had the chance to go ahead at the end, but missed both shots (Burke and KP). After the game, Rick defended his decision, saying that he thought the best chance of a good possession would be getting the ball into Luka’s hands without giving the Bucks a chance to set their defense. He said the team got two good looks out of the possession, and that’s the most a coach can hope for. The fact is that the team didn’t, in fact, get the ball into Luka’s hands, and KP’s heave was pretty miserable. Can’t really argue with Carlisle's idea, but it wasn’t well-executed. I didn’t love KP taking that shot when there was still time to reset, but he did have a good look. At any rate, after the game, Luka indicated that he respects the coach’s decision about the timeout. I get Luka’s frustration that he didn’t touch the ball on such an important sequence, but calling out the coach on TV wasn’t a good look, especially from a team leader, and I imagine someone spoke to him privately.
WCS. Willie had 11 points and 11 boards, and shot well (5-7), which was great, but the stat line might favor him to some extent. Although he did pull down 11 rebounds, he also gave up some offensive boards, and his defense at the rim was pretty soft at times. Much smaller players scored and rebounded over him -- not quite sure what the issue was. I thought he got better as the game wore on, but I didn’t think it was his best night, despite it being his best line.
Johnson. I thought James had a very good performance off the bench, with 13 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, and 5-9 shooting in 29 minutes. Although his stats were good, I thought his real impact was mostly in ways not directly affecting the box score. He was a dogged defender, and did as well as one might expect on Giannis. He also did a surprisingly good job orchestrating some offense and making plays. At one point, he looked almost Luka-like, directing KP to move to a spot where James could get him the ball to take advantage of a mismatch. One might have wished he could have grabbed a rebound or two, but we won’t nitpick. He appeared to be taking a leaderly role in the huddles, and at one point, took Green aside and counseled him after a couple of inadvisable fouls.
KP. Porzingis played 29 minutes in his second game back, and had 15 points and 10 rebounds to boast about. Nevertheless, I felt it was a pretty frustrating game for him. He had a pretty terrible shooting night, going 3-15 through the first three quarters. He came on a little in the fourth, but still ended up 6-19 from the floor and 2-7 from range. Despite the fact that he had 10 boards, he didn’t do as well as we might have hoped on the glass, and he turned the ball over 4 times. I felt that he was forcing things quite a bit, and making mistakes you wouldn’t expect from him. He committed basket interference on a Josh Green shot that was on its way in, and ended up slapping it away, acknowledging to Josh after the play that it was KP’s bad.
After the game, he said that he took a lot of responsibility for the loss, saying that he wished he had been calmer, and that he hadn’t rushed that last three. Rick admitted that KP had not shown the best judgment in his shot selection, but thought Kris’ heart was in the right place, wanting to make an impact in limited minutes, and said he would be a lot more upset if Porzee hadn’t been aggressive.
Burke had 13 points in 28 minutes, and was 3-6 from three. It is too bad that he missed that last shot — if it had gone in, the narrative might well be totally different. Iwundu had 6 boards in 23 minutes as a starter, and also hit a corner three. He was not part of the closing unit. Green got 19 minutes of burn, and had a few nice plays, although I thought he hurt the team some with a few rookie mistakes in the fourth. Ideally, you wouldn’t be playing a rook in the most meaningful minutes of the game, but they were more or less out of options, and this was a good chance for him to get some experience and build his confidence. Terry had a surprisingly effective five-minute cameo, and Bobi made a brief appearance early on. The ball was stuck at the top of the stanchion at one juncture, and I thought Bobi’s skills with a broomstick might be called upon to un-stick it, but Timmy stepped up and shot it off its perch.
Bucks. Giannis had 31 points, and was phenomenal at the rim. However, he was in foul trouble and sat for part of the second quarter and most of the third. He was horrid at the line (1-10), and I was a little surprised that the Mavs didn’t go to a Hack-a-Giannis tactic. Instead, they effectively made him a jump shooter at the end, which isn’t really his thing, although he did hit 2 of 5 threes. Khris Middleton really did the Mavs in, with 25/8/6. He stepped up when Giannis didn’t, and killed our team with back-to-back clutch contested threes at the end. Jrue did a good job harassing Luka and put up 16 points as well. Brook Lopez had an 11-11 double-double. Bobby Portis was a Mavs-killer off the bench, with his aggressive rebounding (13 boards, 5 offensive).
Rick thought the team’s undoing was the poor start, and he accused his squad of playing selfishly on both ends of the court in the early going. He complimented the group that gained some momentum in the second quarter, praising their hard play. He thought the second half went much better, and was cheered by so many guys stepping up.
Not to make the story about the refs, but Luka lived in the paint, and was awarded only 7 free throw attempts, which was a little hard to understand, but there it is. I think it was a very frustrating game for 77, which may have accounted for his losing his cool a little bit at the end. He had to have some blood removed from his hand and his jersey at one point, but it didn’t seem to be anything serious.
Despite the middling performance, there are some positives to take away from the game, and it’s hard to read anything into it anyway, with five rotation guys missing. Perhaps the most impressive thing was that the severely short-handed squad played a competitive game against one of the league’s best teams, albeit the Bucks were not really at their best, either. It was mostly a defensive battle, with points tough to come by for both teams, and I think it’s good for the Mavs to have a chance to sharpen their game in this fashion. Had they hit a couple more shots/free throws, made a couple fewer mistakes, or grabbed a couple more rebounds, they would have walked away with a W. Not bad, not bad at all.
Anyway, it’s on to the next one, against the Bulls on Sunday. See you after the game!