After beating the Charlotte Hornets on the road, the Milwaukee Bucks returned home to complete a back-to-back against the visiting Dallas Mavericks, who were well-rested.
Milwaukee would be without Khris Middleton, who continues to miss either the first or second games of back to backs due to injury management. That made things harder for the Bucks, who were already thin at the forward position with MarJon Beauchamp and Jae Crowder sidelined. That forced veteran guard Pat Connaughton to play a larger role.
Connaughton has been struggling mightily to find his footing this season, particularly from outside of the arc, but he'd have a golden opportunity to flitch the switch with extended minutes against Dallas.
Key Milwaukee Bucks veteran gets his swagger back in win over Dallas Mavericks
Connaughton was called upon, and he delivered. The wing clocked in his best scoring performance of the young season, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 4-of-9 from deep. It was truly a Connaughton masterclass in stuffing the stat sheet, as he also tallied five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. He was also a game-high +22.
A big reason Connaughton finished with a season-high 34 minutes logged was that he played the entire fourth quarter. He came up clutch for the Bucks throughout, having made a tip layup to pull the Bucks within five points with just under seven minutes before sinking a pair of triples with less than three minutes to put the finishing touches on Milwaukee's victory.
It's wonderful to see Connaughton get going after such a poor start to the season. As he showed in the 2021 NBA Playoffs, he's got what it takes to be a key cog on a title-winning team, but he's got to hit those perimeter shots. Hopefully he can build something off of this performance and keep the ball rolling moving forward.
While it was great to see Connaughton get the wheels turning, he still was not the star of this show, since Giannis Antetokounmpo (40 points) and Damian Lillard (27 points and 12 assists) were both on a tear throughout this matchup. They both came up clutch, with Lillard scoring 12 points in the final period and Antetokounmpo notching 15 (6-of-6 field goal shooting).
It's still not in its purest form, but the Antetokounmpo and Lillard duo is starting to work out the kinks on the offensive end, and the results are welcoming.
In addition to Connaughton, the Bucks got contributions from three other reserves. Bobby Portis had another solid game with 11 points and seven rebounds. Cameron Payne continued to light it up with a solid 11-point, two assist outing. A.J. Green, who was also seeing time due to injuries elsewhere, had eight points on 3-of-5 field goal shooting. It's great to see the bench get it going and step up.
On the other side of the ball, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic were sensational. The former finished with 39 points, 33 of which came in the second half, having hit big shot after big shot. Meanwhile, Doncic had 35 points, nine rebounds, and nine assists of his own. These are two of the best shot-makers in the business, and they lived up to it Saturday.
Ultimately, it was a turbulent matchup as these two heavyweights exchanged blows, but it was great to see the Bucks clutch up in the end and secure the 132-125 win.
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