After a display of stout defense against the Charlotte Hornets, the Dallas Mavericks will look to add to their four-game winning streak with weekend matchups against two Eastern Conference Central Division foes.
Dallas Mavericks @ Milwaukee Bucks
When to watch: Friday 01/15, 6:30 P.M.
Where to watch: ESPN/ Fox Sports Southwest
Hello, again Wisconsin. The Mavericks return to the Badger State where they saw the Bucks for two of the three preseason games in December and where Dallas swept both matchups at the Fiserv Forum. Dallas also won the season series in the 2019-2020 season two games to none, a good notch in their belt for sweeping the team with the eventual best winning percentage in the league last year.
The streaking Dallas defense will face quite a test in the Milwaukee offense, which currently has a league-best 118.1 offensive rating. The Bucks are on a winning streak of their own, winning three straight after going 2-0 on their most recent road trip on their way to an 8-4 record, which is good enough for a tie with the Indiana Pacers in the Central Division and 3rd overall in the East.
While the expected intrigue of Giannis Antetokounmpo facing a potential free-agent landing spot has been rendered moot thanks to him inking a contract extension in the offseason, a national audience will still see two of the association’s anchors on full display.
Antetokounmpo, the two-time defending NBA MVP and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year is continuing his league dominance in 2021 as he comes into the game on the heels of a triple-double against Detroit and is averaging 26.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton is having a career year so far, scoring at a 21.6 points per game clip with career bests in Field Goal (.544), Three-Point (.471) , and Free Throw (.939) percentages.
With the team averaging 41% collectively from beyond the arc, and a league-leading 198 total three-pointers made, the Bucks will be a massive three-point threat for an undermanned Mavs squad of scrappy defenders who are currently missing Josh Richardson and Dorian Finney-Smith’s presence on the perimeter.
Chicago Bulls @ Dallas Mavericks
When to watch: Sunday 01/17, 2:00 P.M.
Where to watch: Fox Sports Southwest
Dallas will return home to continue their Central Division slate against Chicago (4-7) on Sunday. Both teams will have a day of rest in between matchups as Chicago will be squaring off against the Oklahoma City Thunder while Dallas is battling Milwaukee.
Chicago is scoring at a respectable rate thanks to frequent Mavs trade rumor target Zach LaVine’s 27.7 points per game average. With Richardson and Finney-Smith likely still out, the defensive assignment for LaVine will likely fall to Wes Iwundu or Dončić, who has been opening eyes with his efforts on defense as of late.
The Bulls are averaging 116 points scored per game, good enough for 6th in the NBA. Their defense, however, is currently in the lower tier, as they give up 121.1 points per game, which places them 28th out of the 30 teams. This bodes well for the recently revived Kristaps Porziņģis as the team can look for some screen and roll opportunities with Dončić and make the Bulls pick their poison.
The 25-year-old LaVine could see help arrive much like Dončić did with Porziņģis’ return by way of Lauri Markkanen, AKA “The Finnisher.” Chicago has been missing their 23-year-old seven-footer for most of the season thanks to a lower-body injury and COVID-19 health and safety protocols, but they are expected to reintroduce him to their front court and starting lineup at some point over the weekend.
Sunday’s contest will be a bit of a revenge game for Dallas as the Bulls beat the Mavericks 118-108 earlier this month thanks to a 39 point outing from LaVine. The Mavericks were sans Dončić on that evening and had Jalen Brunson inserted in his starting spot where he went off for 31 points on the night but it wasn’t enough and the slip up against Chicago is the lone blemish on Dallas’ otherwise pristine record so far in 2021.
Do you think the Mavericks will be able to take down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks to extend their winning streak? Share your predictions with Irvin on Twitter @Twittirv.