The Milwaukee Bucks handed Dallas Mavericks and head coach Jason Kidd their fourth straight loss at Fiserv Forum Sunday night with a 124-115 victory. The Bucks improved to 11-2 at home and 14-5 on the season while the Mavericks dropped to 9-10.
Here are some takeaways from the win:
MVP showdown: Giannis v. Luka
Mavericks star Luka Dončić came in as the league’s leading scorer at 33.4 points per game while Giannis Antetokounmpo was tied for third at 31 points per game.
The Bucks have played a couple of the league’s other 30-point per game scorers at home and have made them work for their points. Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell managed 29 points on 24 shots on Friday while Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 18 points on 16 shots on Nov. 5. Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant scored 33 on 23 attempts.
The 6-foot, 7-inch Dončić presented a different type of matchup for the Bucks with his 37.7% usage rate (percentage of team’s plays used by the player) as a big point guard. Head coach Mike Budenholzer indicated that before the game the Mavericks star would need to see some different looks – but instead Dončić got one look for most of the night: Jrue Holiday.
Milwaukee’s own star point guard essentially acted like a No. 1 cover cornerback, matching up with his adversary for the better part of the game (with some occasional help from Jordan Nwora and Wesley Matthews). Holiday picked Dončić’s pocket three times and the Bucks scored 12 points off six Dončić turnovers.
“I feel like it’s an every night thing, to be completely honest,” Holiday said of his draw against one of the top scorers in the league. “Luka is a great player. Everything he can do offensively is top tier. But, I mean, who did we have last game? (Donovan Mitchel). OK. Before that we had DeMar (DeRozan). You know what I’m saying? So the assignment for me, mentally, I feel like has always been there. And I’d like to win the war. The battle sometimes they win, but I’d like to win the war.”
And although Dončić finished with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting and handed out 12 assists, Holiday was able to keep pace on the offensive end with 16 points and six assists on his own.
Holiday insists it doesn’t matter to him if he doesn’t score in a game as long as the team wins, but it’s no small thing to also contribute on the offensive end with such defensive energy expensed.
“For him to do that, and then still go out and get his numbers on the offensive side – you really can’t take that lightly,” Bobby Portis said. “He’s a great player. He just gives himself up for the team.”
Holiday wasn’t called for a foul until the fourth quarter, and Dončić’s point production was his fifth-lowest total of the season.
“It takes a lot to defend him and the way they use him and their creativity, their spacing,” Budenholzer said. “For us to have an elite defender like Jrue to take that challenge; and he did. He had him a ton. Wes took him for a couple of stretches. I think the six turnovers, 50% from the field, the nine free throws maybe we could keep him to a few less, but overall I think that’s a pretty strong defensive effort by us. It’s rare you can do that to Dončić.”
On the other side, Dallas had nothing for Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks’ star had one of his more efficient offensive outings in November, scoring 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting (57.9%) while knocking down 80% of his free throws (8 for 10). It was his best performance at the free-throw line since Nov. 2 (83%).
“Felt great," Antetokounmpo said of his free throws. "I’m working really hard every single day on my free throws, just getting comfortable each game. At the end of the day I cannot take anything for granted. I cannot be satisfied when you have one good night from the free-throw line. I cannot be comfortable.
"I gotta keep working on my game, keep on improving. It’s something that I know I gotta do better. But I’m doing better. Miss or make, I’m putting in the work. I made 200 free throws today (in practice). So, now, I just live with the outcome. Today was a good outcome. Maybe tomorrow is not going to be as good, but I know that I’m putting in the work.”
Antetokounmpo only missed six two-point shots and scored 22 points in the paint.
Grayson Allen sparks the Bucks early, hits all seven of his three-pointers in the first half
The Bucks put together their best offensive half of the season by scoring 73 points in the first 24 minutes, due in large part to a barrage of threes – including seven from Grayson Allen.
The guard hit all seven of his attempts in the half en route to 22 points, which helped offset some early foul trouble from Antetokounmpo (14 first-half points) and Brook Lopez (six).
“What was I seeing? The hoop looked huge," he said with a smile. "I got a couple of good catch-and-shoot looks and then coach 'Bud' drew up a few plays, got a couple on a few other kickouts. Got a bunch of threes in a bunch of different ways. It felt really good. Every shot felt really good. Looked good seeing it go in, too.”
Holiday said after the game he was looking for his teammate, and Budenholzer added that “the guys executed and sometimes you just try and keep feeding him and I think the guys found him so we tried to find him some, too.”
After starting the season slowly (31.4% three-point shooting, 8.4 points per game in his first seven games), Allen has caught a rhythm offensively. Heading into Sunday night he had been making 50.8% of his shots and 48.6% of his three-pointers in averaging 11.7 points per game. With his 7-for-8 effort from distance against the Mavericks he is now 19 for his last 25 (76%) from behind the three-point line.
Allen finished with a season-high 25 points on 8-of-10 shooting. He also had five assists and two rebounds.
Bucks don’t need to chase chances
The Mavericks have been allowing opponents 9.5 offensive rebounds per game, while the Bucks are the eighth-best offensive rebounding team in the league with 11.9. Before the game, Kidd acknowledged his team has started ball watching as opposed to crashing the glass, whereas opponents have done a good job getting to loose balls.
On paper, Dallas had a good night in limiting second-chance points for Milwaukee with the Bucks scoring just 14 off eight offensive boards when the starters were in the game. But, Milwaukee shot over 50% from behind the three-point line for much of the game and hovered around 60% shooting from the floor all night. Frankly, Dallas stood around watching the ball go in the net more often than not.
5 Three-pointers in the first quarter for Allen, tying his season high for a single game. The Bucks were 7 for 10 from behind the three-point line in the opening quarter and scored 41 points.
11 of 15 Games on the road for the Bucks after Sunday’s contest. The Bucks had played 13 of their first 19 at home.
17 Three-pointers made by the Bucks, tying a season-high (Nov. 9 at Oklahoma City).
73 First-half points for the Bucks, a season-best. They led 73-62 at the break and by as many as 16 points at one point.
“Versatility is a word that can be used in a lot of different moments, a lot of different situations," Budenholzer said of the team's offense. "I think some nights you need to be able to win different ways. Our defense, it wasn’t for a lack of effort, but offensively they can really spread you out, they can really be a very, very efficient team. And you’ve got to be able to score and counter that. It’s not probably our nature, my nature, but I think to be a balanced team and be good on both ends of the court is really the ultimate goal. ... can you do it on both ends and do whatever it takes to win night and night out.”
779 Career steals for Antetokounmpo after taking one away against Dallas, tying him with Khris Middleton for No. 4 on the all-time franchise list.
Play of the game is Grayson Allen’s record seventh three-pointer
Allen hit his first 7 three-pointers in the first half against Dallas, setting a franchise record for most in a half. It also tied the franchise record for consecutive makes without a miss in a game. Per ESPN Stats and Information, it also tied Allen for the most threes made in a half without a miss over the last 25 seasons. His seventh make not only set a season-high for threes for Allen but also tied a career-high.
“I wish I would’ve taken about three more in the second half to get it (my career high)," he said with a laugh. "In our offense – it comes in bunches for me a lot of times so I could go a full rotation without getting it and then boom it's four or five shots. The whole first half was a bunch for me today and thankfully I was able to knock ‘em down.”
Video of the game is Brook Lopez’s four-point play
Lopez has definitely earned his nickname “Splash Mountain” for turning himself into a legitimate three-point threat – that is nothing new. But it’s not every day that the 7-footer gets a four-point play. After finding himself open in the corner (and in front of his bench) in the second quarter he gave Spencer Dinwiddie a pump fake before drawing contact and splashing in a triple. He made the free throw, converting the rare four-point play.
Bucks injury report
Pat Connaughton (non-COVID illness), available
Serge Ibaka (non-COVID illness), out
Khris Middleton (left wrist surgery), out
Joe Ingles (left knee surgery), out
Who do the Bucks play next?
Milwaukee hits the road to take on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. It is the second of three matchups between the teams. The Bucks beat the Knicks, 119-105, at Fiserv Forum on Oct. 28. Milwaukee has won four straight over New York.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Grayson Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo pave way for Bucks against Mavs