Postgame: Monta Ellis

Mavs SG Monta Ellis weighs in on his epic 38-point performance in Dallas' double OT win over the Bulls Tuesday night.

Whew.

I’m still pretty worked up about that game last night, and I’m sure most of you feel the same way. I mean, who could blame you? Double overtime on the road against one of the best teams in basketball, on a night when Dirk Nowitzki’s back ached, and when Derrick Rose hit an overtime prayer to tie it up? It was some dramatic stuff, and that’s why we watch.

But as fun as it will be to rehash the game with your friends at work today or even weeks from now, the Mavs are not going to talk about it after tonight. They’re going to move on, and that’s exactly what they should do. Veteran teams don’t get too high after highs and they don’t get too low after lows.

Rose’s one-handed push shot to force double-OT? That’s a low.

Monta Ellis’s three-pointer to give the Mavs the lead in double-OT? That’s a high. The win, too, is obviously the highest high of them all.

But the Mavs aren’t worried about that anymore. Instead, it’s on to the next one for Dallas, and the club doesn’t have much time to think about yesterday anyway, because they have another Eastern Conference playoff team to do battle with tonight in the upstart Milwaukee Bucks.

Fortunately for the Mavs, the flight from Chicago to Milwaukee is shorter than the one from Dallas to Houston, so the team will have gotten about as much sleep as it normally would on any road back-to-back, even accounting for last night’s 10 extra minutes of gameplay. But Milwaukee is a fast-paced, athletic team. Jason Kidd, a familiar face and head coach, is smart enough to know the Mavs might be a bit tired after last night, so I expect the Bucks to push it early and often to test the Mavs’ limits. It’s going to take another gritty performance to win this one.

OFFENSE
Mavs Offense Bucks Defense
Points/100 poss. 113.8 (1) 100.6 (7)
eFG% 53.4 (3) 49.4 (11)
TOV% 11.7 (T-1) 17.0 (T-3)
Off/Def Reb% 25.8 (T-15) 72.1 (T-27)
FT/FGA .276 (T-18) .311 (20)

It’s the second game in two nights for the Mavericks, and it’s the second top-10 defense they’ll play in as many days. The Bucks grade out better defensively even than the Bulls, which is tough to do. Unlike Chicago, however, Milwaukee thrives on forcing turnovers, so Dallas cannot afford to make simple mistakes tonight that generally come with playing fatigued.

At this point, though, the Mavs might just be immune to committing turnovers. Their turnover rate has been at least top-three basically the entire season. Counting last season’s finale, the Mavericks have not turned it over more than their opponent in 20 consecutive games, the fifth-longest streak in the NBA since the 1985-86 season. It’s a streak the Bucks will look to break tonight, obviously, so the Mavs have to take care of the ball at every opportunity.

As you’ll see later, the Bucks are an elite offensive rebounding team but struggle on the defensive glass, something that’s pretty uncommon in the NBA. One reason could be because starting center Larry Sanders is usually busy contesting shots and cannot get the rebound — he averages just 3.8 defensive boards per game, fourth on the club. The team leaders in defensive rebounding, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brandon Knight, play small forward and point guard. The Mavs will be able to score some second-chance points, and that matters on a night when their jump shots are probably going to be shorter than normal due to fatigue.

With that fatigue factor in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising to see players like Jae Crowder and Charlie Villanueva get a little more run than usual. Both players are capable of coming in and hitting a few threes, and Crowder is especially active on the defensive end and in transition. If Dallas comes out flat offensively, I’d watch out for any changes Rick Carlisle might have in mind.

DEFENSE
Mavs Defense Bucks Offense
Points/100 poss. 103.2 (T-12) 100.3 (24)
eFG% 50.8 (21) 48.6 (21)
TOV% 18.4 (1) 16.8 (26)
Off/Def Reb% 70.4 (29) 27.4 (5)
FT/FGA .279 (15) .255 (24)

There’s no question the Bucks defense is a good one, but the offense has struggled to this point in the season. The Mavs can keep those struggles going by simply hanging onto the ball — the Bucks are fourth in the NBA in points per game off of turnovers, while the Mavericks are best in terms of points allowed off TOs. The Bucks also turn mistakes into quick points, as they’re top-10 in fast break points per contest.

The key to slowing this offense down is canceling out penetration and eliminating shot opportunities in the paint. Milwaukee makes a living in the key, where the Bucks score 45.6 points per game, fifth-best in the league. Not to be outdone, the Mavs defense allows the fewest points in the paint in the league (35.7). It appears the Mavs’ strengths align with the Bucks, which always makes for a juicy contest.

The Bucks are led by point guard Brandon Knight, who scores 17.5 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting from the field. He’s one of only two players on the team to average more than one made three-pointer per game, along with former Maverick OJ Mayo. As a team, Milwaukee hits threes at the 25th-best rate in the league, another fact that plays to the Mavs’ advantage. Dallas struggles against teams that rely on three-point shooting, but fortunately the Bucks generally look elsewhere for points.

That isn’t to say, however, that the Mavs can take it easy when contesting long shots. The Bucks have plenty of shooters — alongside Knight and Mayo are Khris Middleton, Jared Dudley, and Ersan Ilyasova, each of whom is capable of knocking down a few treys on any given night. Ilyasova, however, left last night’s game with a facial contusion and spent the night in a Cleveland hospital. His status for tonight’s game is unknown.

If Ilyasova does not play, that means more minutes for Antetokounmpo, one of the most exciting young players in the game. He’s nearly seven feet tall and has the game of a shooting guard — Kidd even played him at point guard some during the preseason. He’s a matchup nightmare at any position, and Dallas must mind him. He’s played some 4 this season, but he’s also played shooting guard. Giannis has Shawn Marion-like versatility on both ends of the floor, and his presence will test Chandler Parsons, Al-Farouq Aminu, and the rest of the Dallas wing players.

Tonight’s game will be as much a test of willpower as it will be about basketball skill. The Mavs have to be exhausted after last night’s emotional victory, but you need a short-term memory in this league. Milwaukee played last night, too, for what it’s worth, suffering a narrow defeat in Cleveland. The Bucks will be hungry for a win this evening, and the Mavs will be looking to come back home from their season-long four-game road trip with a perfect 4-0 record. There’s a lot on the line tonight physically, mentally, and emotionally, and that usually leads to a great game.

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