It’s a good thing the Dallas Mavericks have a short memory. It served them well Sunday against the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
On Friday, the Mavs got ambushed by the lottery-bound Washington Wizards, losing 135-103. But they quickly put that surprising loss in their rearview mirror and carved out an impressive 118-112 victory over the Bucks in a game that was nationally televised.
“We kind of had to bounce back after the game in Washington,” point guard Luka Doncic said. “Our goal is to get home (court) advantage, and we’re so close.”
The Mavs are fourth in the Western Conference with a 49-30 record, and are only one game behind the third-seeded Golden State Warriors (50-32). Dallas plays at Detroit on Wednesday, then close out the regular season with home games Friday against Portland and Sunday against San Antonio.
The Mavs are also trying to win 50 games for just the second time in the last 11 seasons and for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign when they were 50-32 and finished seventh in the West.
“We just didn’t play the way we should play (against the Wizards), and that hurt us a lot,” Doncic said. “We just got to learn from that.”
As Sunday’s final results indicated, it appears the Mavs did learn from that.
Here are our five takeaways from the six-point win over the Bucks.
DONCIC’S EXCEPTIOINAL PASSING SKILLS: Is there anybody in the NBA with better passing skills than Luka Doncic? In a word: No. For those who haven’t seen the fourth-year point guard utilize his passing skills, he put them on full display Sunday as he was dropping dimes all over Fiserv Forum. Doncic finished the game with 15 assists as his innate ability to seemingly have eyes in the back of his head made many of his passes breath-taking. And along with the 32 points and eight rebounds he collected, Doncic now has three games this season where he’s contributed at least 30 points, eight rebounds and 15 assists. The other NBA players on all of the other teams combined have produced just two 30-point, eight-rebound, 15-assist games this season. Enough said. Doncic now has five consecutive 30-point games. That’s one shy of the franchise record set by Mark Aguirre from Nov. 30-Dec. 7, 1983.
POWELL PRODUCING WHILE PUNCHNG THE CLOCK: Much has been made about Dwight Powell being on schedule to become one of just six players in the NBA to play in all 82 games this season. It’s rare in today’s game to play every game on the schedule, because so many players resort to load management whenever they need a game or two to rest. (This trend really bothers the older NBA players). However, Powell is more than just punching the time clock every game. He’s also putting up some respectable numbers while holding down the fort inside the paint. Powell has scored 12 or more points in six of the last eight games, and has six or more rebounds in five of those games. On Sunday, Powell finished with 22 points and a season-high 13 boards, and was 8-of-10 from the field.
CHASED OFF THE THREE-POINT LINE: In the first quarter the Bucks acted like they were at a shooting gallery at an arcade. One by one the Bucks were dropping in three-pointers like they were going out of style. Five different Bucks nailed at least one three-pointer, with Jrue Holiday, Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton each making two. In all, the Bucks were a sizzling 8-of-16 from downtown in the first quarter. But that’s where the fun from downtown stopped for Milwaukee. Over the last three quarters of the game, the Mavs re-read their game plan and started chasing the Bucks off the three-point line, forcing them into the more conventional two-point attempts. The results: Milwaukee converted just 7-of-24 shots from beyond the three-point arc over the last three quarters of the game.
DOWN 10 POINTS, NO PROBLEM: In case no one has figured this out yet, deficits don’t seem to faze the Mavs. Not even double-digit deficits. The Mavs appear to thrive on finding themselves being painted in a corner. Adversity seems to bring out the best in them. You tell them what they can’t do, and they immediately show you what they can do. The Mavs fell behind the Bucks, 35-25 early in the second quarter. By the time that quarter was over, the Mavs were ahead, 57-55. The Bucks even went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter. By the time the third quarter was over, the Mavs were ahead, 90-87. The Mavs, in fact, lead the NBA with 17 games won when they’ve trailed by 10 or more points. It’s as if they need to fall behind, then get a wake up call before they wake up and start taking care of business.
BALANCED SCORING: One thing coaches – and players – always look for during a game is balanced scoring throughout the lineup. It’s the one intangible that can keep opposing defenses in a funk. If one player is doing all the scoring, that team will be easy to defend, because the defense invariably knows where the points are going to come from. But if multiple players can get in on the fun, that’s no fun for opposing defenses. Such was the case Sunday as all five starters – plus one reserve — wound up scoring 11 or more points. The Mavs are 11-2 when all five starters score 10 or more points this season in the same game. On Sunday, Luka Doncic scored 32 points, Dwight Powell tallied 22 points, Reggie Bullock popped in 16 points, Jalen Brunson poured in 15 points, and Dorian Finney-Smith and Spencer Dinwiddie notched 11 points apiece. With that type of balanced distribution on the offensive end of the court, the Mavs become very difficult to defend. And that’s the way they like it.
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