Game in Review: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Dallas Mavericks – January 9

Jan 8, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) defends Dallas Mavericks guard Deron Williams (8) during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 8, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks guard Michael Carter-Williams (5) defends Dallas Mavericks guard Deron Williams (8) during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Zaza Pachulia returns to Wisconsin as a Dallas Maverick with aplomb, but Khris Middleton and Michael Carter-Williams guide the Milwaukee Bucks to exciting finish.

Starting Lineups – Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter-Williams, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Greg Monroe

Dallas Mavericks: Deron Williams, Wesley Matthews, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Zaza Pachulia

You may keep checking the standings from week-to-week expecting the surprising run from the Dallas Mavericks to finally fade, but all signs point to another post-season appearance for one of the West’s most resilient rosters. Veteran players continue to guide the team, younger players or those previously thought to be misfits are producing far above expectations, and head coach Rick Carlisle has once again worked his magic.

For the Milwaukee Bucks, things aren’t nearly as bright as the season rapidly looks to be lost in an improved Eastern Conference. Bad record thus far aside, there is still a lot of basketball to play, and a lot of development to be undergone for the league’s second-youngest team. Development would come forcefully in the form of a very well-rounded opponent in Dallas to whom the Bucks lost to previously, 103-93 on the road.

Given the construction of their roster, Dallas tends to focus primarily in spacing the floor to give their shooters plenty of space within which to operate. It worked early on, though keeping the paint clear also works in Milwaukee’s favor given the weaknesses on defense in part due to Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker.

Both starting squads moved at a generally slower pace, though the Bucks did benefit from a few transition buckets. Keeping the Mavs slowed down and spaced meant passing lanes were open to preying upon, and an early turnover resulting in a Parker solo dunk gave Milwaukee a nice boost.

Khris Middleton was the beneficiary of some well designed plays that freed him up to cut in an open lane to the basket, and Michael Carter-Williams got some help from crisp post-passing. Dallas, on the other hand, was getting open shots, but for some reason just couldn’t get things going (ended 6-20 for the quarter) and the Bucks got through the first with a sizable lead up 28-18.

O.J. Mayo got things going for Milwaukee with a nice wing three followed shortly up by a Monroe and-1 off a put-back to keep the pressure up on Dallas. While an obvious mis-match presented itself as MCW found JJ Barea paired up on him, he wasn’t able to take direct control and utilize his height advantage, though the rest of the offense continued to nominally hum along to maintain Milwaukee’s lead.

As the Bucks began to push the pace about midway through the second, the turnovers started to pile up from chaotic passing in clogged lanes or a lack of helping offense. The Mavs ice-cold shooting was the only thing preventing them from rocketing back into the game, though how long that’d last was anyone’s guess.

In what was indicative of the night both teams were having, the Bucks had attempted a paltry three three pointers in the first half (making two), while Dallas was bordering on 20+ attempts. Both teams were (trying) to play to their strengths, but in the first half it favored Milwaukee primarily.

14 of 45 shooting for Dallas spelled a relatively successful first 24 minutes for Milwaukee who went into the break leading 55-39.

Of course, all good things must come to a quick and brutal end, and the Bucks looked very flat after their break. A lightning-fast 12 to two run by Dallas forced a very early Milwaukee timeout.

In the opposite vein, the Bucks couldn’t quite get much to go down, exemplified by a wide-open Jabari Parker leaner that bounced everywhere on the rim but through it. Khris Middleton did his best to drag the corpse of a team through the rough patch as he made his way to a 27 point, five assist and three rebound evening.

MCW began to contribute a bit as well as the scoring stabilized putting together a long string of possessions in which he ended up with the ball in his hands or delegated out for much better looks for teammates. Zaza Pachulia put a stop to a mini Milwaukee run with 4:00 on the clock as he blew by John Henson for a layup in traffic.

Horrible rebounding on the part of Milwaukee gave opportunity after opportunity for Dallas from distance, and that once big lead shrunk with speed to 79-75, and the Bucks were holding on by mere threads.

The intensity began to shoot up a bit as time progressed, though Milwaukee’s defense began to collapse a bit due to high screens that freed up Dallas guards to drive directly at the basket. Slow rotations certainly didn’t help, and Dallas inched their way back into things.

One has to question the wisdom of keeping Monroe in down the stretch given how little he contributed on offense besides lots of screaming and with the utter lack of rebounding. Whether keeping him in would come back to hurt was yet to be determined.

John Henson’s reinsertion onto the court seemed to anchor Milwaukee, and MCW started to go supernova in every aspect of the game late with a speedy attack and flashes of wonderful court vision. He would finish the evening with 15 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in a great performance.

Yet a few more Dallas threes tied things up with 2:40 left at 93, and to say the atmosphere in the arena was tense is an understatement. A OJ turnover looked to be trouble as Raymond Felton drove the lane, but MCW had other ideas:

The Mavs were able to get the lead on Dirk free throws, but a much-needed Henson steal turned into a Khris basket in transition with :09.1 on the clock. A final shot came to Dallas, but MCW arrived once more on D to force the ball to Deron Williams who ended up with a wide-open chance, but clanked it as the Bucks walked away with the heart attack win, 96-95.

95. 79. 96. 89. Final

The Bucks will head to New York next, for an evening matchup with the Knicks.