First Impressions: Bucks 95, Mavs 90
Some thought the Dallas Mavericks' Tuesday night game would be a showcase for the Bucks' Brandon Jennings, who during the morning shootaround said some lovely things about maybe someday being a Mav.
"Who wouldn't want to play in an environment like this every night?" said Jennings, a restricted free agent this summer. "You've got an owner who's so into his team and everything like that. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They're about winning."
That's been true for more than a dozen years ... but it wasn't true Tuesday in a game that was actually a showcase for how Dallas finds ways to not quite win -- even in a setting in which Dirk is more and more "Dirk.''
"It's disappointing,'' coach Rick Carlisle said after a loss that leaves Dallas at 25-31. "Dirk played great; 21 (points] and 20 (rebounds). 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. In this league, you can take away one guy and you can make that hard on him and then there's going to be other openings. We were unable to do that.''
Instead it was the 27-28 Bucks -- who'd lost nine of 11 coming in -- who found the openings. Monta Ellis (22 points) made a go-ahead jumper with 63 seconds left to help Milwaukee rally from a late seven-point deficit. That was one potential Mavs edge blown. Another? Jennings only managed to score eight points in this "showcase.'' Oh, and Milwaukee won despite getting outrebounded by 17 (56-39) and outscored by 22 (52-30) in the paint. Oh, and the Mavs even started the game ahead 11-0. One more thing: Elton Brand had a strong game inside (.12 points and 14 rebounds in 25 bench minutes), and that was wasted, too.
Mixed in: 20 Dallas turnovers. And a 1-of-17 shooting night from the arc.
But most of all, a second straight vintage UberMan performance meant little. The former MVP did his 21/20 thing (his first such statistical effort since April 3, 2003) after having given the Lakers fits Sunday with a season-best 30 points and 13 boards in a Dallas loss.
The Mavericks, now five games back in the West, have completed a stretch of playing seven of eight games at home ... and the cumulative record was 5-3. That's no way to mount a playoff push, especially with an arduous road trip that begins immediately, Wednesday in Memphis.
"Basically, our collective will has got to be stronger,'' said Carlisle, who singled out Brand and Dirk as two lonely bright spots. "(Brand) is a warrior. It's hard to watch a guy like that fight his ass off and as a team be unable to get it done. It's tough. Winning means everything him and it means everything to Dirk. I've got to coach these younger guys harder and better because they can do better."
In other words, Carlisle is saying Dirk needs help. But what Dirk is saying is probably more realistic, as he is again becoming the true "showcase'' player in the floor:
"For us to win that game, I've got to be perfect, and I wasn't down the stretch."
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