'Jumping In': Mavs 112, Bucks 102 In Preseason Opener

'Jumping In': Dallas Mavs 112, Milwaukee Bucks 102 In Preseason Opener Showcasing The Gifts of Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo
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The largest preseason Game 1 question for both the visiting Dallas Mavericks and the Milwaukee Bucks - not counting dreamily pondering whether some day Giannis Antetokounmpo will switch teams - was about "approach.''

With no summer work, a shortened training camp and just a three-game preseason before the NBA starts up for real in less than two weeks, would Dallas and Milwaukee accelerate the seriousness of Saturday's exhibition game?

Would this be a glorified practice? Or a dress rehearsal for the 2020-21 season?

Mavs 112, Bucks 102 told a story - suggested in pregame talk from coach Rick Carlisle, who said, "We used to play seven or eight preseason games, (so) players could ease into the preseason. But this is not the case now. We're playing (real games) in less than two weeks, so you've gotta jump into these preseason games.''

The Mavs finished last season with a 43-32 record, advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 - and are this year, led by top MVP candidate Luka Doncic, primed for true contention.

Luka "jumped in,'' playing 16 minutes and totaling 13 points, two rebounds and four assists, and the meshing with teammates is already in place.

“First preseason game, you guys saw it, we weren’t very good,'' said Luka, already raising the bar.

The Bucks are already there - and so is Giannis. They're coming off a league-best 56-17 record, but then second-round disappointment (again) in the playoffs. ... and now they await what they hope is a contractual commitment from two-time MVP Giannis.

Giannis "jumped in'' as well, with 25 points and 10 boards in just 25 minutes, though Dallas' defense did its best to challenge him with some physicality, here ...

And here.

And all of that isn't even counting the first-period accidental pop to the mouth Dallas' Dorian Finney-Smith administered to The Greek Freak. (Is that any way to lure a future free agent to Dallas, DFS?)

If Saturday is much of an indication (and it's probably not), Dallas looks a bit more ready that the Bucks do.

For the Mavs, this wasn't so much about showcasing Luka as it was unveiling a handful of positive-news guys. Veteran newcomer Josh Richardson started and scored 9 points in 16 minutes. And back-from-injury returnees Jalen Brunson (10 points and four assists) and Dwight Powell (who started at center and totaled five points and six rebounds while maybe getting a push from Willie Cauley-Stein) were both healthy and active.

Brunson teamed with Trey Burke and Maxi Kleber as part of a second unit that kept up the heat even when the Bucks were sticking with starters.

"That group has got some real synergy,'' Carlisle said. "They all know how to play with each other."

The Bucks are trying to mesh quickly as well, hoping the Antetokounmpo pairing with new vet Jrue Holiday adds to the helper firepower already provided by Khris Middleton. .Here, though, while Middleton contributed 18 points of his own. Holiday was good for just four points in 21 minutes.

Part of the story: Dallas' perimeter superiority. The Mavs held the Bucks to 9-of-38 (24.3%) from the arc while shooting 17-of-43 (39.5%) themselves.

Among the rookies: Top pick Josh Green scored his first pro bucket, and far-less-heralded University of Houston product Nate Hinton (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 points) earned some Carlisle praise.

Said the undrafted guard Hinton: “Just getting my feet wet. ... Getting to play an NBA game was great. Every time I see those three letters I get excited.''

Milwaukee and the Mavericks will get another chance for excitement in the second of three preseason games, this one also at Fiserv Forum, on Monday.

"This,'' Carlisle said, "is an opportunity to play a very good team twice in three days."

And to "jump in.'' Not "ease in.''