Enemy: The Two Man Game
Brandon Jennings vs. Jason Kidd
Kidd leads the Mavs in both 3-pointers made and attempted, so Jennings will need to keep his wits about him in the half court. 80.6% of Kidd’s threes come off assists and 63.2% of his makes overall come on passes from teammates. Jennings is a study in contrast, as just 34.8% of his makes come off assists. The Bucks obviously rely upon Jennings to create in the half court much more than the Mavs do with Kidd. As always, Kidd has bee a willing passer this season. He won’t be harassed into the easy turnovers Jennings occasionally forces on shakier guards as they are bringing the ball up the court, but he’s a lot less of a risk to blow by Jennings when he is trying to sweat him as some of the more explosive guards in the league.
John Salmons vs. Deshawn Stevenson
A season after being one of the league’s very worst and most forgotten about players, Stevenson finds himself having a bit of a renaissance. He’s hitting better than 50% of his 3-point attempts and thriving in a starting lineup that relies on him as the kickout option. How long he’ll be able to keep up the hot shooting is yet to be seen, but 18 games is enough data to take seriously. Milwaukee doesn’t often get burned by those who are notably shooting well from outside, so they’ll likely be running Stevenson off the 3-point line all evening. He’s much less of a threat when he isn’t spotted up. There were signs Salmons was finding himself on the last homestand, specifically in the final game. Whether or not that was an illusion should be known by the end of this trip. To beat a very tough Dallas team, Salmons will need to be at his aggressive and smart best.
Luc Mbah a Moute vs. Caron Butler
“Tough Juice” is still tough, though he’s not what he used to be. Not unlike Stevenson, he’s shooting atypically well from 3-point range, though he hasn’t been as dangerous with the ball in his hands as he once was. His 3.1 free throws per 36 minutes are the fewest he’s attempted since his second season in the league. Mbah a Moute could spend the majority of the night matched up aginst Dirk, especially if he has it going early.
Larry Sanders vs. Dirk Nowitzki
Sanders fared well against Luis Scola on Friday, but if he was a test, Dirk is the exam. As Coach Skiles said Saturday regarding Scola, Sanders’ length and athleticism, in theory, should give him a chance to do well against Dirk. But the game likely won’t be played in theory Monday night. Dirk’s having a typically terrific season this year and will have Sanders off balance early. This could be a night in which Mbah a Moute gets heavy burn at the four, unless Ilyasova proves up to the challenge of defending the Mavs best player.
Andrew Bogut vs. Tyson Chandler
Much in the same way Bogut means everything to the Bucks defensively, Chandler means all that to the Mavs defense. Dallas is currently ranked sixth in the league in defensive efficiency, largely because of their new big man and his injection of athleticism and enthusiasm at the five. He’s given Bogut some problems in the past with his length and shot-blocking. If Milwaukee goes to Bogut early, he’ll need to have established good position. Dallas may not be so quick to double team with Chandler or Haywood on the court, so Bogut could get the opportunity to prove that he can score this evening. He’ll need to make the most of it for the Bucks offense to operate as effectively as it can.
Corey Maggette, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Ersan Ilyasova and Keyon Dooling
Brendan Haywood, Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and JJ Barea
Dallas is working with proven, talented veterans on their bench, led by the high scoring, high octane Jason Terry. And as far as backup centers go, Haywood has to be in the conversation for most talented in the league, if not the most dedicated and interested. Douglas-Roberts has been good about hitting shots, even if he hasn’t been good about knowing where to be and what to do. Milwaukee will need shot-making from their bench if they hope to stay in this longer than a quarter or two. The Bucks can’t afford the drop off that’s been so evident at times this season.
Prediction: Mavs 97 – Bucks 90
Milwaukee nearly upended the Mavs in Dallas last year, but Bogut was pretty much allowed free reign against Erick Dampier and Dallas was a shell of what they are now defensively. The Mavs aren’t the fun and gun team they once were, but they still are very effective in a slower tempo offense that revolves around Dirk (who else?) and effective 3-point shooting from everyone else.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Then become a fan on Facebook (in the sidebar).