Months from now when they look back to Friday’s matchup against Milwaukee, the Dallas Mavericks will sigh while re-living many of the missed opportunities that served as the backdrop to the unfortunate 112-109 loss to the Bucks at Fiserv Forum.
At the top of that list were a pair of wide open missed 3-pointers by Trey Burke and Kristaps Porzingis in the waning moments that would have given the Mavs a one-point lead. Also, the Bucks negated a lot of what the Mavs wanted to do by grabbing a whopping 16 offensive rebounds.
That played a rather large role in Dallas leaving Milwaukee with a 6-5 record.
“I think we played bad,” said Doncic, who finished with 28 points, nine rebounds and 13 assists. “It wasn’t our good game, but we hung in there.
“We had a chance to go up in that situation, so I think we did some good things even on a bad night.”
That “situation” Doncic was referring to occurred when Burke misfired on a 3-pointer with 21 seconds remaining and the Mavs trailing, 109-107. Willie Cauley-Stein (11 points, 11 boards) grabbed the offensive rebound, but Porzingis missed a 3-pointer with 10.4 seconds left on a shot attempt he admitted he rushed.
“It’s a good look,” said Porzingis, playing just his second game after Oct. 9 knee surgery. “I don’t need to rush that shot. I could have made that shot, too. Just take my time, knock it down and we’re up one.
“I’m just out of rhythm and that’s it. Keep putting in the work and sooner or later I’m going to be playing at the level I need to be playing at.”
Coach Rick Carlisle said the Mavs couldn’t ask for better looks at the basket than the ones they got from Burke and Porzingis.
“We got two good looks, and you always want to save your timeout if you can,” Carlisle said. “As a coach that’s all you can hope for in that situation.”
Khris Middleton buried a pair of free throws to give the Bucks a 111-107 cushion with 7.8 seconds to go. From there, Doncic scored inside with two seconds remaining, and Brook Lopez split a pair of free throws with 1.6 ticks left.
However, with the Mavs out of timeouts, a desperation 50-foot shot by Doncic missed its mark.
“We didn’t start off the game well,” Carlisle said. “We were not playing unselfishly to start the game at either end and it permeated to our overall play.
“We finished the (first) half well. I thought our downfall was the beginning of the game. When you start off in a hole and then you lose the first quarter by seven points (30-23), it’s a tough way to start the game.”
The Mavs played without Dorian Finney-Smith, Josh Richardson, Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson and Dwight Powell, who all missed the game due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. This was clearly a game where the absence of those five players affected the Mavs, who host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“It’s tough,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “This COVID thing is really messing with some of these teams, but it’s next man up.
“We’re going to hold it down for them until they get back. We’re going to keep competing and like I said, it’s next man up.”
Rookies Josh Green (three rebounds, two steals, 19 minutes) and Tyrell Terry (two assists, one steal, one rebound, five minutes) acquitted themselves well while in the middle of a game against a high-powered opponent they probably would have been spectators had the Mavs not been impacted by COVID-19.
“A lot of guys are stepping up into higher levels of responsibility and doing a good job,” Carlisle said. “Wes Iwundu is doing a good job as a starter, Green’s giving us good minutes. Tonight, Tyrell Terry came off and I think he was a plus (one) in his (five) minutes.”
Hardaway poured in 13 of his 22 points in the third quarter after the Mavs rallied from a 43-29 deficit early in the second quarter to trail, 84-81, entering the final period.
“Once halftime is over you kind of get the idea of how teams are playing you at that point,” Hardaway said. “So you just try to pick and choose your spots wisely, and when the ball comes to you just be confident and knock it down.
“And it’s great that your teammates are finding you once you get it rolling.”
James Johnson gave the Mavs a huge boost when he poured in 13 points on 5-of-9 shots. Johnson also contributed three assists, two steals and two blocks.
“I think he’s great on both ends,” said Doncic, who missed four free throws. “He helps us a lot, and I’m glad we have him.
“It’s not just the toughness. He has amazing skills as a basketball player and I think he’s really helping us out there.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo paced the Bucks (9-4) with 31 points and nine rebounds, Middleton poured in 25 points, Jrue Holiday fired in 16 points, and Brook Lopez finished with 11 points and 11 boards.
“We were right there playing decent basketball as a team.,” Porzingis said. “There’s things I could have done a lot better and that could have changed a lot in this game.
“This one, I want to take a lot of responsibility for this one.”