Even before they made two major trades over the past week, the Dallas Mavericks weren’t exactly in the best position to take down the NBA’s winningest team.
But after trading away four of their starters, leaving only rookie Luka Doncic, the Mavericks chances against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night at American Airlines Center seemed slim.
After all, coach Rick Carlisle is still figuring out who he has on his roster, learning who should play where and with whom.
One of his new players, Justin Jackson, who was acquired from the Sacramento Kings for Harrison Barnes on Wednesday night, made his Mavs’ debut late in the fourth quarter.
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And central trade acquisition Kristaps Porzingis, of course, isn’t expected to play at all this season while he recovers from an ACL injury.
Still, the remade Mavs put together a scrappy effort to keep it close into the fourth quarter before the Bucks pulled away with a 122-107 win to improve their NBA-best record to 41-13. Milwaukee has won six consecutive games, all by double digits.
“We didn’t put up enough resistance,” Carlisle said. “When you give up 80 points in the paint, it’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. In this league, you’ve got to guard force and penetration.
“We can do better. I’ve got to get these guys better prepared. I know we can do better than this. We’ve got to be more resourceful. We’ve got to be more persistent.”
The Mavs, led by their bench, cut the Bucks’ 23-point lead down to seven late in the third quarter after hitting eight 3-pointers in the quarter. Dallas tied a franchise record with 22 3-pointers, matching the feat set on Dec. 29, 2017 at New Orleans. It’s the most 3s made in a Mavs’ home game.
Eleven Mavericks made 3s, including four players with three each.
Jackson made the 22nd 3-pointer seconds after checking into his first game with Dallas late in the fourth quarter. It was his first shot attempt with the Mavs.
The Bucks, however, were also hitting from outside. They made 10 of 36 3-point attempts, including 4 of 7 from Eric Bledsoe. They held a 51-37 rebounding advantage, including a game-high 17 from Giannis Antetokounmpo. He also led all scorers with 29 points.
Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks control the inside. They outscored the Mavs 80-26 down in the paint.
“Obviously, Giannis is very good at getting in the paint,” said Devin Harris, who had one of the 3-pointers and three assists. “They do a good job surrounding him with shooters so you can’t really help. So a lot of times we’re leaving out guys one-on-one and he’s hard to stop that way.”