First Impressions As Milwaukee Beats Mavs

Before Monday's meeting with visiting Milwaukee, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle was asked to compare his team's ongoing 12-game win streak with last spring's 13-game run. "We're certainly ahead of where we were last year,'' said Carlisle. Before the game, ahead of last year. After the game, behind the Bucks?

The Bucks registered a 103-99 upset victory to end the streak and put a cork in any Mavs celebration.

"They kicked our ass,'' summarized Carlisle later, bothered as he was specifically by the fact that Dallas lost a 20-point first-half lead. (Again.) "I don't know of any simpler way to say it. … We're not where we need to be yet.''

The Mavs' early-season surge – they hadn't lost since Nov. 19 to Chicago – leaves them at 19-4. They have the second-most wins in the NBA, and they have more opportunities to build another streak, as their attention will now turn to upcoming home games against Portland (on Wednesday) and Phoenix (on Saturday). Dallas will be favored in both, setting up a high-profile meeting with the Heat in Miami on Monday.

That's about it for my happy-face portion of this piece.

At least I can tell you this was a somber postgame locker room. Standup guys like Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry all met the press and pretty much all expressed the same concerns and emotion.

"This one hurts a little bit,'' Marion said.

"This one hurts a lot,'' Jet offered.

Fix it starting Wednesday? Sure, and a win will be enough … though it'll be interesting to watch how the fellas handle the success if they are every up by 20 anytime soon. Do they remind themselves of how often this has happened? Do they try to forget? Do they reconsider attempting to hold such a lead while letting JJB and Big Wood every be on the court together at the same time again?

Aw, the Mavs don't want to get ahead of themselves in overanalyzing the positive "mights.'' They will now be too busy, at least for a day or two, recalibrating after what went wrong here, which included:

*The end of an at-the-AAC dominance of the 10-13 Bucks. Milwaukee hadn't won in Dallas since 2002, and came into this game on a five-game road losing streak.

Yeah, yeah … "these Bucks aren't those Bucks,'' and all that. But they WERE "those Bucks'' for the first 17 minutes of the game, when they overwhelmed by Dallas' first-wave of talent.

*Some regression back to the moments (this season and previous) when it's been about "Nowitzki & The Dirkettes.'' The UberMan scored 30 points, and there was end-game balance elsewhere (five other Mavs score at least nine) … but there were dips in intensity, problems from the arc (5-of-20) and an inability to stick with Milwaukee standouts Andrew Bogut inside (10-of-12 for 21 points, with 14 rebounds) and Brandon Jennings outside (9-of-19 for 23 poins, with 10 assists).

"He's the quickest guy on the planet,'' Carlisle said of Jennings.

And – back to Dirk -- when it was up to Nowitzki to tie the game with 11 seconds remaining and the Bucks up 101-99, an ideally-designed play got him an eight-footer in the lane … that he missed.

*The Dallas defense – which came in among the NBA's best, allowing just 92.6 points per and 43.2-percent shooting – falling apart in an assortment of ways. The Bucks were averaging a league-low 91.5 points but busted through that barrier while 47.6 percent from the field and 69.2 from the arc. … again, especially in the late-going, moving the ball crisply to earn easy shots at the rim.

Props to Milwaukee for outstanding execution of the pick-and-roll, and again, the ball movement that developed from it. It all made Dallas look lost.

*There were two major points of low comedy for the Mavs, who to their credit have a recent habit of fast starts. One, to repeat: the Mavs were up 20 with five minutes to go in the second period – and blew it.

Let's deal with this for a moment.

In their last three home games, the Mavericks have led New Jersey bu 21, Utah by 25 and Milwaukee by 20.

This is good, right?
I've written many times in this space that just because you get up by 20 doesn't mean to have to/get to win by 20.

But that doesn't mean the Mavs can't do it once in awhile, eh?
And two, there was Bucks coach Scott Skiles' decision to intentionally foul sour-shooting Dallas center Brendan Haywood. The strategy unfolded midway through the fourth quarter with the Mavs up 86-83. Milwaukee center Jon Brockman was instructed to tackle Big Wood ("Knock-On-Wood''?), a 26.5-percent free-thrower. Haywood dutifully missed four straight free throws – welcome to 23.7 percent! -- before Carlisle mercifully tugged him from the game.

"There are some things,'' said Mavs guard Jason Terry, "that we need to correct if we want to get where we want to go.''

Dallas' 13-game run last season occurred from Feb. 17 to March 10. It came right after the trade with Washington that brought to town Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson. The timing of that streak is what Carlisle is referring to when he says this one was superior; the Mavs of late last season were attempting to reinvent themselves on the fly.

This year's team?

It says it understands what happened in 2007, when from Jan. 27 to March 11 the Mavericks mounted their franchise-best streak of 17 wins straight. It was part of a 67-win, first-seed-in-the-playoffs season that ended with the embarrassment of a first-round ouster at the hands of No. 8 Golden State.

"Having a take-care-of-business mentality is really important,'' Carlisle said. "We have yet to establish that on a consistent basis. There will be frustration until we get there. We have work to do.''

In other words, the truth is the Mavs are continuing to learn that a 12- or 13- or 17-game streak guarantees nothing. … and that the next order of business is to simply begin another one.

Visit the Store: Night at the Mavs on Dec. 28, two tickets and a T-shirt for $22!

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