On their final regular season matinee of the season, the Dallas Mavericks travel to the great state of Wisconsin to face the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon. The Mavericks are in a pitched battle for home-court advantage in the playoffs, moving up and down between the third and fourth seeds lately.
The Denver Nuggets and the Utah Jazz are hiding. The Bucks face their own playoff seeding battle. The Mavericks can’t come into this game flat-footed like they did against the Washington Wizards on Friday night. The Bucks are title contenders, unlike the tanky Wizards, and there’s no room for error.
Milwaukee was recently eliminated by the Los Angeles Clippers, so they’ll be looking to get back on track. They are 48-29 and 26-13 at home. The Mavericks are 48-30 and 21-18 on the road. The Bucks won the previous game in December 102-95.
Here are three things to consider before the game:
Quality shots will be key
Looking at the last game between these two teams, the Bucks did not dominate any phase of the game. They shot just one percentage point better than the Mavericks on 3-point range. They only outshot Dallas by four, and the Mavericks actually had two more offensive rebounds than the Bucks. Milwaukee only got one assist.
They won by holding the Mavericks to 40% shooting from the floor, while they shot a more respectable 45%. The Bucks are long and athletic, and those types of teams have given the Mavericks problems in the past (see: two playoff losses to the Clippers). They are able to close Luka Doncic’s passing lanes and bottle Jalen Brunson in the paint.
The Mavericks, however, have been a different team since that December loss to the Bucks. They click on offense and stretch the field more than they did earlier in the year. They’ll have to use that extra space to get better shots than they did in the last game. Hitting those higher quality photos will also help.
The Mavericks will get plenty of 3-point shots
The Bucks play a style of defense that denies the paint and forces 3-pointers. They allow the most 3-pointers in the league at nearly 41 per game. They’re okay with opponents shooting from behind the arc as long as they don’t go into the paint. And it works. Milwaukee is fourth in the league in points in the paint allowed at just 43.7 per game. That means Mavericks shooters will have to make do when they get open shots. They’ve been better at that this season, but still had games where they weren’t successful. If they can overturn those 3 points, the Mavericks will have a chance against the defending champions.
Expect a lot of iso
Both teams are in the NBA’s top six in single plays per game. It’s no surprise, as both Luka and Khris Middleton are excellent one-on-ones. The Mavericks have a 51% GFE on iso, while the Bucks are just below them at 49%. Dallas is a bit more efficient, though, scoring 1.01 points per possession on isolations, while Milwaukee only scores 0.94. That number is second in the league for the Mavericks, with only the Chicago Bulls scoring at a higher rate. If the Mavericks, and especially Luka, can make the right play on these isos, they may find success against a title favorite.
How to watch
The game begins at noon CST and can be seen on ABC.