The Young Bucks and the Greek Freak

Is it just me, or are the Mavericks playing their best basketball of the season right now? I’m not just saying that because they’ve won three straight after knocking off the Bucks on Monday night; I really feel like the players look more in sync with each other than they have at any previous point in the year. Of course, that would only make sense if that were the case. Several of the key players on the roster have been hurt or recovering from being hurt, and maybe they’re finally getting into a rhythm together.

In any case, a hot first quarter propelled the Mavs to a pretty easy victory last night against a young team that is interesting but not yet very good. The Bucks are one of the teams that I hoped the random number generator would pick for me at the beginning of the season when I was in search of a basketball roster to fall in love with. Fate went a different way, and while there may be a different universe where I’m wearing a Bucks jersey and rooting heartily for Giannis Antetokounmpo, the only version of myself I’m aware of is stuck with the Mavericks — and proud to be an MFFL.

Wes Matthews set the tone early, knocking down two long threes in the first two minutes, and his teammates soon followed suit. Overall, Dallas shot 13-for-23 in the first quarter, including 4-for-6 from downtown. They torched the Bucks energetic defense for 34 points in the quarter and never looked back, even though they would never get the offense going that well again the rest of the way. In the end, the Bucks never once led, and if not for a very late run, they never would have been close.

Down 74-61 with four minutes left to play in the third, Milwaukee finally got things going a bit. They closed the gap to within seven by the end of the quarter, and then had the game tied at 89 with under five minutes left in the final period. Matthews immediately went to work, knocking down two more threes to give his team some distance, and then a Raymond Felton floater, a Devin Harris layup, and a series of free throws were enough to put the Bucks down for good.

This game clearly belonged to Matthews, who finished with 22 points and a 5-for-7 night from beyond the arc. Like so many of his teammates who came into the year at less than full strength, it hasn’t been an easy season for Matthews to date. At times, he’s been flat out off in his shooting, and consistency just hasn’t been his forte, but things appear to be turning around. If they continue to do so, that big contract won’t come back to haunt the Mavericks one bit.

With Deron Williams still out, J.J. Barea got the start at point guard again but quieted a bit, scoring just 8 points and dishing out 5 assists. Dirk Nowitzki shot a putrid 3-for-15 from the field, but on this night, his team didn’t need him. Players like Zaza Pachulia (17 points, 8 rebounds) and Raymond Felton (14 points, 4 assists) picked up the slack nicely, and Chandler Parsons continues to be a versatile wrecking ball of sorts offensively, offering an exciting all-around game that makes the team so much more dangerous. Parsons added 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists in nearly 37 minutes, further proving that his minutes restriction is completely a thing of the past.

Where does this win leave the Mavs, you ask? Five games over .500 for the first time since November 20, a mark they have never risen past in the 2015-16 season. I keep saying this, but they need every win they can get in this portion of the schedule. The final game of the 2015 calendar year takes place against the — gulp — Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, and all bets are off on the Mavs running that win streak to four. They may well be playing the best basketball of the season, but the 29-1 world champions aren’t likely to be too fazed.

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