Mavs Can't Finish Late, Fall To Bucks, 112-109

The Dallas Mavericks lost Friday night's matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, 112-109, despite a strong game from Luka Doncic and Dallas having a late-game lead.
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The Dallas Mavericks came into Friday night's game against Milwaukee Bucks having won four consecutive games, but that win streak was snapped, as they weren't able to hold on in crunch time. The Bucks ended up winning the closely-contested game, 112-109.

The Mavs had a two-point lead with under three minutes to play in this one, but they were unable to add to that lead, despite having the chance to do so. Although Giannis Antetokounmpo is Milwaukee's MVP candidate, it was the clutch three-point shooting of his secondary star Khris Middleton that helped the Bucks put the Mavs away in the final minutes. With 1.6 seconds remaining, and the Bucks up 112-109, Brook Lopez missed his second free through to give the Mavs one final chance, but Luka Doncic wasn't able to make the full-court heave to tie the game at the buzzer.

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There was a little bit of drama towards the end of the game as the Mavs were attempting to tie or take the lead. Down two points with 21 seconds left, Trey Burke missed a straight-on three, but Willie Cauley-Stein was able to grab the rebound to give the Mavs a second chance. Doncic wanted Rick Carlisle to call a timeout so they could regroup, but Carlisle chose to play it out, and it resulted in a badly-missed Kristaps Porzingis three-pointer that essentially ended the game. Although Doncic seemed frustrated in the heat of the moment, it seems that all is well now that the dust has settled.

"It's coach's decision," said Doncic afterwards. "But if we would have made the shot, everything would be good. If we made the shot, everything would be different. But I don't know. It's coach's decision to call a timeout or no, so I think it's good."

Doncic finished this one with 28 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds while shooting 50% from three. However, he was just 1-of-7 from the three-point line and 3-of-7 from the free throw line. 

UPDATE: On Saturday, the NBA issued a stat correction, crediting Doncic with his 10th rebound and giving him a triple double. It becomes the 28th triple double of Doncic’s young career, tying him at No. 16 all-time with Michael Jordan.

Doncic's co-star, Porzingis, had an offensive first half to forget, as he shot just 2-of-11 from the field, but came around in the second half and finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in just his second game back from his knee rehab. Porzingis finished the game shooting 6-of-19 overall and 2-of-7 from deep.

"Hey, if you were out for five months, and you're getting a chance to get back with the team, you'd be aggressive too," said Rick Carlisle of Porzingis' shooting struggles. "If he was not aggressive, I'd be a lot more concerned."

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Overall, the Mavs showed great fight in this game, given that they were down five key players and playing the best team in the Eastern Conference on the road, but that won't make them feel any better about the loss. Clutch losses plagued the Mavs all last season, and they've now had a couple of them again this season early on. As this roster continues to try to get back to full strength, Mavs' newcomers like Wes Iwundu and Josh Green will keep getting valuable experience that should pay off later in the season.

The Mavs will now fly home after a two-game road trip to face Zach LaVine and the Chicago Bulls. Doncic missed the Mavs' first matchup with the Bulls with a strained quad, and Dallas ended up losing 118-108, despite a 31-point outburst from Jalen Brunson. After being undermanned for over a week now due to the NBA's Covid-19 protocols, the Mavs hope to get back key players in Brunson, Jason Richardson and Dorian Finney-Smith very soon.