Coming off consecutive losses since hiring Doc Rivers to become the new head coach of the team, the Milwaukee Bucks continued their ongoing road trip with a matchup in Dallas.
It felt like Milwaukee needed this one, though it was not a do-or-die game. Things got more difficult in the hours before tip-off when Brook Lopez was ruled out due to personal reasons, leaving Milwaukee without their starting center. Still, the show had to continue.
Milwaukee found themselves in trouble early, with Dallas coming out of the gates scorching hot from the floor, especially 3-point range. Early in the second quarter, the Bucks went down by 25 points to the red-hot Mavericks, and it seemed like trouble may be on the horizon.
Yet, despite the massive deficit, Doc Rivers said postgame that no one panicked. Everyone stayed calm when facing adversity, and that helped fuel a significant run. The Bucks trimmed Dallas' lead to just five points at halftime, and midway through the third, they took the lead for themselves.
After pulling away in the fourth by building up a 15-point lead of their own, the Bucks sealed the deal with a 129-117 victory over the Mavericks.
Doc Rivers explains how the Milwaukee Bucks managed a 25-point comeback over Dallas
With his first victory as the coach of the Bucks in three tries, Doc Rivers will officially coach the East in the NBA All-Star Game. It typically goes to the top-seeded coaching staff at the time, but Boston did it last year, and doing it twice in a row is not permitted. Rivers plans to send former head coach Adrian Griffin some money and a ring since he was around for most of it, which is a great gesture.
What helped Doc earn this nod and fuel the 25-point comeback was the combined brilliance of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard.
For a good chunk of the first half, Antetokounmpo was among the few bright spots for the Bucks as he helped them stay in the game, even after going down 25. He stayed in attack mode and flat-out dominated right at the hoop. On top of that, he showed off the range here and there, sinking some jumpers, both from 3-point land and mid-range territory.
In total, the Greek Freak finished with a head-turning stat line of 48 points on 71.4 percent shooting, 10 assists, six rebounds, and five steals.
Damian Lillard topped Antetokounmpo in the efficiency category, having shot an incredible 10-of-11 from the floor, including 5-of-5 from 3-point range to score 30 points. In addition to the scoring, the floor general also had eight assists. Once getting some ugly turnovers out of his system - he had six of them - Lillard was excellent.
Bobby Portis gave the Bucks a massive spark off the bench with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Despite struggling for most of the game, Portis came to life in the fourth and scored seven points to help put this one away.
On the other side of the ball, Luka Doncic was tremendous, having tallied 40 points, 11 assists, and nine rebounds despite leaving early on after injuring his ankle. Still, the Bucks made things tough for Doncic, who also had nine turnovers. There were stretches near the end where Antetokounmpo was the one guarding him, which is something Bucks fans love to see. Let him guard the best player.
Josh Green and Maxi Kleber had 20-point games of their own, while Tim Hardaway Jr. nearly joined them with 18 points of his own off the Mavericks' bench.
This was a good win for the Bucks coming off a tough two-game stretch that included a loss to the Denver Nuggets and an emotional defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers. Perhaps this win could be the one that gives them a needed spark moving forward.
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