The Milwaukee Bucks were fortunate to have two pop quiz home games this week, but a very real early semester road exam against two of the hottest teams in the NBA begins tonight in a state not worth messing with.
Before facing the high-flying Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, the Bucks don their bull whips and cattle prods tonight for a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs started the season 0-3 and looked inches away from branding themselves with the “championship hangover” prodding iron.
However, Dallas has rattled off six wins in eight games since, including an impressive road victory against their Eastern Conference doppelganger, the Boston Celtics. And despite what statistics may tell you right now (Dallas ranks 19th and 24th, respectively, in offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage), the Mavericks still possess a talented core
Milwaukee: 97.3 (22nd)
Dallas: 97.9 (19th)
Milwaukee: 99.1 (12th)
Dallas: 98.9 (11th)
Milwaukee: 95.8 (8th)
Dallas: 95.2 (12th)
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Stephen Jackson, Carlos Delfino, Jon Leuer, Andrew Bogut
Dallas Mavericks: Jason Kidd, Delonte West, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood
Box Score Advantage: The Best Player On The Floor Still Wears Blue And Silver
Even with sparkplug JJ Barea (who engaged in a pint-sized scoring battle against Earl Boykins in Milwaukee on New Year’s Day 2011) opting for more money and heavier clothing in Minnesota, defensive behemoth Tyson Chandler signing (and singing) in New York, and Racine native/notorious deer hunter Caron Butler riding into the Lob City sunset, Dallas still has the best player on the floor (Dirk Nowitzki) and off the bench (Jason Terry). Any statistical advantage for the Bucks can easily be mitigated if one or both players gets into an early rhythm.
Matchup to Watch: Stephen Jackson/Carlos Delfino vs. Jason Terry
Perhaps the only commonality between Stephen Jackson and Jason Terry is their age range (33 and 34, respectively) and penchant for jump shooting. In the last two games, Jackson has been en fuego from anywhere on the court in the Bucks’ past two victories, thanks to his increased aggressiveness around the basket (8-9 at the rim).
Terry has never been much for defensive intensity, so the table is set for Carlos Delfino (42.9% 3FG) and/or Stephen Jackson to continue their hot shooting. At this point I should remind you that they are Milwaukee Bucks wing players, so perception often is not reality.
Offensively, Jason Terry is a definitive perimeter player that rarely takes the ball inside (1 shot per game at the rim), and is still one of the best mid-range shooters in the game, despite his age. Terry splits 68.5% of his 12.4 shots per game between 16-23 feet (2.9, 47% FG) and beyond the arc (5.6, 65.3% eFG). It’ll be interesting to see if Jackson and/or Delfino are able to stick with Terry’s constant movement off the ball, and if it’ll be enough to disrupt his integration into the Mavs’ offensive sets.
Going into Dallas and stealing their third consecutive victory over the Dallas Mavericks would be a huge boost to the Milwaukee Bucks’ confidence. Milwaukee is riding fairly high after two games of unselfish play, and with luck riding shotgun, leaving Texas with a win is entirely probable. Dirk Nowizki will hit his fair share of turnaround jumpers, and Jason Terry will most likely sink a few catch-and-shoot threes. The question is whether the Bucks can stick around with Nowitzki and Co. long enough to make their move in the fourth quarter.