‘Trap game’, a term used to describe a potential let down for a team that is expected to win against a lesser opponent. I’ve heard this phrase used a lot in the recent past in relation to the Bucks. Looking back, I really seriously consider if we have ever been good enough to coin any game a trap game. This however, does have potential disappointment written all over it.
Milwaukee’s defense flexed their muscle Wednesday night as they extended the win streak to four games with a 99-95 take down of the previously 10-3 Pistons. The much maligned defense throttled Detroit into shooting a miserable 35.3% from the field and committing 18 turnovers. The Bucks were simply everywhere on that end of the floor, hustling on every play, and working to alter shots without fouling after allowing Detroit to parade to the line in their previous matchup. The well renowned ‘all-length’ Bucks recorded 16 blocked shots, using their go-go gadget arms to devastating effect, falling two blocks shy of a franchise record. Giannis (4), Maker (4), Henson (2), Snell (2) and Bledsoe (2) had the Bradley Center crowd ducking for cover as shots were swatted away left and right in a highly entertaining performance.
Perhaps the relentless effort on defense was taking its toll on the Milwaukee players as their performance on the other end was not quite as thrilling. The second quarter proved particularly brutal for the Bucks as they only managed 15 points on 6 made field goals.
Although, a pleasing aspect of the offense was the continued transformation of Khris Middleton’s shooting, again finding himself open for catch and shoot opportunities. Khris has now gone 7-12 from deep in the last two and its been a result of the players around him like Bledsoe making his life easier. One play in particular brought a big smile to my face in the first quarter. A typically stellar repeat defensive effort ended in a Henson block and Bledsoe recovery. As Bledsoe naturally does, he quickly put his foot on the gas and pushed up the court as 3 Bucks ran with him. The Pistons defense was on the back foot right away and Bledsoe capitalized. With Middleton trailing behind Bledsoe pushed into the paint then simply turned and scooped the ball back to Middleton, who in one sweet motion, caught and knocked down the three. Bucks offense at its best.
The 2-14 Dallas Mavericks are right in the teeth of a thorough rebuild, phasing out Dirk Nowitzki’s hall of fame career and blooding freshly minted franchise point guard Dennis Smith Jr. The Mavericks look destined to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season which would be the first such instance since the turn of the century. Dallas, a long time perennial playoff team in the Western Conference, including the 2010/11 championship featuring Bucks head coach Jason Kidd, are starting from scratch and struggling out the gate to start the season.
The 9th overall pick in last years draft, Dennis Smith Jr is off to a terrific start however. Averaging 15.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists, Smith Jr is a leading candidate in the rookie of the year race. The Mavericks are ranked third last in points scored per game, only mustering 98.2 points a game. This doesn’t bode well for Dallas coming up against a red hot Bucks defense since the Bledsoe acquisition.
One area the Bucks will look to expose Dallas in is the guard matchups. Smith Jr, J.J Barea and Yogi Ferrell all play major rotation minutes for the Mavericks and face a tough task against the lengthy Bledsoe and Brogdon combination, not to mention the Bucks swingmen Tony Snell and Khris Middleton play through the two guard spot also. Defensively look for the Bucks to attempt to smother this trio and force the ball out of their hands.
Top Dallas scorer, former Warrior Harrison Barnes leads the way for Dallas with 18.8 points a game this season and will likely come into this one feeling confident after scorching the Bucks in their two meetings last year. Barnes by FAR produced his best average against any opponent last year, a season average of 19.2 points sky rocketing to 32.5 points over the two contests. Tony Snell on paper looks to be the man for the job and will be well aware coming into this one that Barnes needs to be kept on a tight leash to avoid this becoming tighter then it should be.
Coming off three nights rest, the first quarter in this one should tell a significant story. The Bucks simply can not allow Dallas to hang around and gather confidence. The Bucks are an impressive 4-1 against Western conference rivals so far on the year and will look to continue to improve that record in this quick one game trip. With one eye on Monday nights game against fellow Eastern Conference contender aspirant, the Washington Wizards, the Bucks absolutely must get the job done Saturday.
I’m prepared to use the words ‘trap game’ right now, this is a different Bucks team, far more talented and exciting then recent previous versions. But, the best don’t often lose these games, genuine playoff home court advantage contenders go on the road and get the job done against inferior opposition. I’m excited and yes, a little anxious to see how this one plays out. I hope the Bucks prove that they are on that level as the season wears on. It starts tonight.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus.