Thu, 02 Feb 2023

Stars collide as Bucks host Mavericks

Field Level Media
27 Nov 2022, 22:55 GMT+10

Two of the NBA's top MVP candidates will meet when the Dallas Mavericks conclude their three-game trip on Sunday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Dallas has lost three straight despite the play of star Luka Doncic, who leads the league in scoring at 33.4 points per game while averaging 8.9 rebounds and 8.2 assists.

Milwaukee, again, is led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 31 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points in the Bucks' 117-102 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. Milwaukee trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half before going on a 23-2 run to begin the third quarter.

"They turned it up to a level that we haven't seen, that we haven't experienced," said Cleveland star Donovan Mitchell.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis Jr. had 14 for Milwaukee, which improved to 10-2 at home with the victory.

The Bucks offered a reminder of their defensive potential in the dominant third quarter, when they outscored the overwhelmed Cavaliers 35-10.

"It felt like there was an urgency to the way we defended," Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "There was activity, purpose. The guys were fantastic. And when we get stops like that, any team is at their best when you can get a lot of stops and then try and play against a defense that's not set."

The Bucks have dropped four of their past six meetings against Dallas, which lost 105-100 to the Toronto Raptors on Saturday.

Doncic had 24 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and two steals in the loss, while Dorian Finney-Smith added 16 points.

Dallas forward Maxi Kleber returned to action after missing four games due to a lower-back contusion and had 11 points and five rebounds in 29 minutes off the bench against the Raptors.

Forward Christian Wood, acquired from the Houston Rockets during the offseason, has made a case to move into the starting lineup after averaging 17.7 points and 7.6 rebounds in 10 games this month.

Wood has played well alongside Doncic, who has improved on defense in his fifth season. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Doncic is averaging 1.8 steals per game.

"People are not going to admit it, but I think this year I've really taken a big step," Doncic said. "I don't need people to believe; I believe in myself. I think I've been playing defense way better than the first four years, and I think I've taken a huge step forward."

Dallas will need a strong defensive effort against Milwaukee, which is wrapping up a four-game homestand.

In addition to Antetokounmpo, the Bucks boast a deep lineup that can create problems on both ends of the court.

Guard Jrue Holiday is averaging 17.6 points and 7.5 assists, while center Brook Lopez matched his season high with six blocks against Cleveland on Friday.

"(Lopez) is really the anchor of the defense, and he should be in all the talks for Defensive Player of the Year, for real," Portis said.

--Field Level Media

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