Recap: Bucks spoil Dirk's monster night
Recap: Bucks 95 at Mavericks 90
Bucks spoil Dirk's monster night
DALLAS — It was perhaps easy for the Dallas Mavericks to overlook the Milwaukee Bucks before venturing out on a three-game road trip.
With the Bucks (27-28) entering the night on a three-game losing streak, the Memphis Grizzlies looming and stops in Brooklyn and Houston still to come, the Mavericks approached Tuesday night’s matchup knowing they had little margin for error if they hoped to make a playoff push after Sunday’s 103-99 home defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban then reiterated the importance of taking care of the home court before his team looked to send the Bucks off the American Airlines Center floor with a loss.
“We have no trap games,” Cuban said while downplaying the notion that the Mavs could overlook the Bucks. “We’ve got to get up for every game. If you can’t get up for every game, you shouldn’t be playing.”
But not even Cuban’s words would be enough to prevent the Mavericks (25-31) from falling right into the trap, failing to close down the stretch of a tightly-contested contest once again and unable to capitalize on a second straight monster performance by 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, wasting the 7-footer’s first 20-point, 20-rebound night since April 3, 2003 en route to sliding to a 95-90 defeat on their home floor before heading out on the road.
“Another tough loss,” a still disappointed Nowitzki said after the game. “For some reason we just can’t get the stops that we need or a big basket at the end. I mean, we’ve been in so many close games and just make too many mistakes. … It seems like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s been frustrating. It’s not only this game, it’s been so many close games all season long that we felt like we should have won if we execute better down the stretch. And for some reason we can’t.”
Looking to make quick work of the Bucks, the Mavs began the night sprinting to an early double-digit advantage while starting the game on an 11-0 run. Backup big man Elton Brand then did his best to keep the Bucks at bay after entering the game off the bench, but the visitors would continue to charge back. And after their hot start, the Mavs led by just four, 21-17, after one.
Having little to show for holding the Bucks to just 6-of-21 shooting in the first, the Mavs aggressively looked to go on the attack to start the second stanza led by Nowitzki one game after setting season highs in points and rebounds with a 30-point, 13-board game versus the Lakers. But Bucks new addition J.J. Redick would give the visiting quad its first lead at 25-24 on a mid-range jumper, before reserve big man Brandan Wright gave the Mavs a lift inside to regain the upper hand while pushing the lead back to 10.
The Bucks immediately answered with a 10-0 run to tie the game on Luc Mbah a Moute’s three-point play, however. Still, thanks to an 8-3 close to the half, the Mavs escaped with a 49-44 edge entering the intermission.
Led by point guard Darren Collison’s 11 first-half points on 5-of-9 shooting, the Mavs’ 45.2 percent from the field bettered the Bucks’ 39.5 percent at the midway mark. Meanwhile, Nowitzki snatched down 11 rebounds through the first two quarters to give the Mavs a 28-19 advantage on the glass to go along with a 28-12 margin in points in the paint.
Nowitzki would continue to rack up the rebounds as the third quarter got underway while the Bucks refused to fade away, taking a 57-56 lead on Ersan Ilyasova’s transition slam and forcing a timeout by Mavs coach Rick Carlisle with 7:00 left in the period. Meanwhile, Collison’s streak of 41 straight makes at the free throw line came to an end after going 14 consecutive games without a miss.
Nowitzki and leading scorer O.J. Mayo then righted the ship before lifting the Mavs into the fourth with a 70-66 lead.
Collecting his first points of the night at the free throw line with 11:47 left in the fourth, Mavs sixth man Vince Carter finally broke into the scoring. But Nowitzki’s 3-pointer from the wing, plus the foul on Mbah a Moute, boosted the Mavs to a 76-69 advantage with 9:04 left on the clock as the home team tried to pull away.
Brand’s inside presence then gave the Mavs all the toughness they would need while trying to hold the Bucks off, before he and Nowitzki both sat and watched as the Bucks inched back within one, 80-79, with 5:49 left to close. The veterans would soon return. Still, after Monte Ellis’ and-one score and Mike Dunleavy’s deuce on the break, the Mavs found themselves once again knotted at 88-all with 2:44 left for either team to take control.
Ellis then did his best to steal the win from the Mavs’ grasp, giving the Bucks the lead with a trip to the free throw line with 1:40 on the clock before answering a tough score inside by Brand with another basket to make it a 92-90 score in Milwaukee’s favor with 1:03 remaining.
“[Brand] is a warrior,” Carlisle would later say. “It’s hard to watch a guy fight his [tail] off and then as a team be unable to get it done. It’s just tough, because winning means everything to him and it means everything to Dirk. I’ve just got to coach these younger guys harder and better, because they can do better.”
Nowitzki then collected his 20th rebound of the night with a defensive stand on Larry Sanders inside, before the Mavs’ offense grew stagnant, forcing Brand to commit back-to-back loose-ball fouls inside that allowed Ilyasova to make it a 95-90 score with 13.9 ticks left.
The two teams then played the clock out when the Mavs were unable to crack into the final margin of separation.
“It’s very disappointing not being able to finish the game,” Brand said while echoing Carlisle’s sentiments. “Plus, it is a home loss. And especially after Sunday’s loss, it is very disappointing.”
Scoring 21 points to led six Mavs in double figures on 8-of-16 shooting, Nowitzki finished with his first 20-rebound game since December 27, 2007.
“Well, honestly I wasn’t very good today at the end,” a modest Nowitzki said while summing up his night. “I’ve got to be better and I expect better. The last two or three minutes is what I hang my hat on. … For us to win that game today I’ve got to be perfect, and I wasn’t down the stretch.”
Mayo added 18 points on 7 of 14 from the floor, but committed a team-high five turnovers on the night. Meanwhile, Brand matched Collison, who added eight assists, with 12 points to go along with 14 rebounds while Shawn Marion and Wright both registered 10 points.
And on a rare off-shooting night, Carter finished with just two points on 0-for-8 shooting.
Ellis led five Bucks in double figures with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, but the Mavs finished the night outshooting the Bucks, 42.4 percent to 41.5 percent. Led by Nowitzki and Brand, the Mavs also ended the game with a 56-39 rebounding edge and a 52-30 margin in points in the paint, making up for a 1-of-17 night from behind the 3-point arc.
However, the Mavs couldn’t overcome their 20 turnovers, which led to 19 Milwaukee points at the other end of the floor, scoring just 11 points off the Bucks’ 12 giveaways.
“It’s disappointing, and Dirk played great. You know, 21 and 20, and some of the shots he hit were extremely difficult. But there’s always going to come a point in the game where other guys around him are going to have to step up. They’re going to have to make simple plays and they’re going to have to knock down shots, because in this league you can take away one guy and you can make it that hard on him, and then there’s going to be other openings. We were unable to do that. There were opportunities, and it’s a make-or-miss league sometimes. And tonight there were too many misses and too many miscues. You can’t have 20 turnovers against this team for 19 points and expect not to be leaving something to chance. It’s as simple as that,” Carlisle concluded.
“It is a collective thing,” Marion added. “Dirk has had two great games, but we haven’t won. We all have to find ways to figure out better ways to win these games. Coach said we had 20 turnovers tonight. That is big. Everyone has to be held accountable. We have a big game tomorrow and it is what it is.”
Note: The Mavs will now head out on a three-game road trip, touching down in Memphis on the second night of a back-to-back for Wednesday’s matchup against the Grizzlies. The two teams are tied at 1-1 in the season series after both collected a home win earlier in the year. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7 p.m. CT.
“We just have to find a way to win,” Brand said while looking forward. “It is time to get a little streak going. We took a step back with the loss on Sunday and then tonight. We just have to find a way to win games.”
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