The Mavericks finish up a three-game road trip tonight in Milwaukee (6-4) and will look to get back on track after a sluggish loss to the Indiana Pacers last night. It will be the Mavs' second back-to-back game of the season, the first of which came Wednesday with a win over the Houston Rockets. Combined with last season, the Mavericks have won gone 17-1 on the second game of back to backs. The Mavs have taken three straight against the Bucks and have won five of six against them as well. The Bucks come in on a four-game winning streak after starting the season 2-4.
After a woeful 28-54 campaign, the Bucks made precious few changes to their roster. The Mavericks will head into the Bradley Center essentially seeing the same roster they're used to seeing, which could be a sight for sore eyes for a Mavericks team that looks a little worn out right now.
Redd still the best
Milwaukee is still led by Michael Redd. Despite his defensive deficiencies, Redd is one of the best scorers in the league and the Bucks offense begins and ends in his hands. He's averaging his usual team-high in points at 24.2 per game, which is down a little from his past two seasons. However, Redd is averaging a career high in assists (4.1) and rebounds (5.9), so he's finding ways to improve his teammates and is lightening the scoring load from himself a little bit. He's playing the best ball of his career, and the team's record reflects it.
Guards are back
Going into the off season, there were some question marks on who would running the point for the Bucks this season. They solved that quickly by securing Mo Williams for at least the next four years. A little later, backup Charlie Bell was pulled back to Milwaukee with a qualifying contract offer after it was believed Bell would leave to Miami. Bell was initially a little bit bitter about the Bucks pulling him back into the cold, but has since relented. Williams has played well thus far and is second on the team in scoring while Bell has played well below expectations.
Yi finally gave in
After claiming he would hold out and not report to Milwaukee, rookie Yi Jianlian finally relented and reported to the Bucks. Now that all the hesitation is out of the way, the Bucks are seeing a decent player emerge. His 9.9 points and 6.1 rebounds aren't particularly thrilling, but his shot blocking has been a nice surprise for a team that is infamous for lacking in post defense. Yi could end up as a solid NBA player and has shown flashes of greatness, but still has a lot of work to do.
Mason comes back
Former Oklahoma State and Waxahachie great Desmond Mason returned to Milwaukee after two seasons in New Orleans/Oklahoma City. He isn't doing much so far, but he's been known as a proficient scorer in the past and could find his rhythm a little better as the season progresses. If the Bucks can get anything close to the Desmond Mason that averaged 17.2 points in his last season with Milwaukee, they'll be much improved.
Bigs are healthy
A big reason the Bucks were so awful last year was the extended absence of some of their big men. Power forward Charlie Villanueva was banged up all year and couldn't play consistent enough to have the breakout season of which he showed flashes during the beginning of the season. A physical big man with a good outside shot, Villanueva helps this team big time when he's playing well. He's averaging 16 points and 8.3 rebounds in his last three games, all Bucks wins. 2005 no. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut also missed the final month of last season with injury. He's bounced back with a decent 2007 campaign, but hasn't improved too much since last year. The only noticeable jump in his game is his shot blocking, which was always a knock on the 7-foot center.
Bucks are rested
While the Mavericks are looking dog tired, the Bucks are coming off a two-day rest, and after tonight's game, they will have another two-day rest. Look for the Bucks to push the tempo and hustle as much as they like since they have plenty of energy and have no reason to conserve it.
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd