In a thrilling showdown between two formidable duos, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard propelled the Milwaukee Bucks to a hard-fought 132-125 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. The Bucks extended their winning streak to four games, showcasing resilience and depth in the absence of key players.
Bucks coach Adrian Griffin commended his team’s character, especially considering the challenging circumstances of a back-to-back, short-handed situation. “It was a great character win. Back-to-back, short-handed … but everyone stepped up, and it was a total team win,” said Griffin.
Antetokounmpo, coming off a rare 16-point performance the previous night, rebounded emphatically with a spectacular 40-point display against the Mavericks. Reflecting on his partnership with Lillard, he stated, “Every game that goes by, I’m going to be more comfortable playing with Lillard. As we move forward, we’re going to keep learning how to play with one another. It’s getting better. It’s a work in progress.”
Lillard, contributing 27 points and 12 assists, echoed Antetokounmpo’s sentiments about their developing synergy on the court. “Every game that goes by, I’m going to be more comfortable playing with Lillard,” said Antetokounmpo. “As we move forward, we’re going to keep learning how to play with one another. It’s getting better. It’s a work in progress.”
The Bucks faced adversity with a limited bench due to the absence of key players like Khris Middleton, MarJon Beauchamp, and Jae Crowder. However, the bench stepped up admirably, combining for 46 points and accounting for crucial 3-pointers, including a standout performance from Pat Connaughton, who finished with a season-high 16 points.
Despite the Mavericks’ formidable duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving combining for 35 and 39 points, respectively, the Bucks orchestrated a comeback in the fourth quarter. Trailing 109-99, Milwaukee went on a 13-4 run, with Antetokounmpo playing a pivotal role, narrowing the gap to just one point with 5:17 remaining.
Lillard emphasized the importance of having the ball in the hands of a good decision-maker during critical moments. “At that time in the game, you have to have the ball in the hands of a good decision-maker,” said Lillard. “I just feel like I can get it done at that time, whether I’m scoring, making a play, or getting fouled and going to the free-throw line.”
The Mavericks made a late push, with Irving’s three-point play bringing them within two points at 127-125. However, a timely 3-pointer from Connaughton and Dallas’ struggles from beyond the arc in the final quarter sealed the victory for the Bucks.
Mavericks coach Jason Kidd acknowledged his team’s missed opportunities and defensive lapses, stating, “We’ve made these shots in the past. We got great looks, they just went in and out, but you can’t give up 40-plus points in the fourth quarter and expect to win.”
The Bucks, now 9-4, look to carry their momentum into the next game against Washington, while the Mavericks (9-4) aim to bounce back against Sacramento. The electrifying performance of Antetokounmpo and Lillard has not only solidified the Bucks’ resurgence but also set the stage for an exciting and competitive NBA season.