(Photo credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
The Dallas Mavericks conclude a four-game road trip on Saturday when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks, who are playing their second game in a weekend back-to-back set.
Milwaukee crushed Charlotte on Friday, 130-99, in an NBA in-season tournament matchup. Seven Bucks scored at least 11 points, ledby Damian Lillard's 27.
Lillard scored just 12 points on Monday in his return from a two-game absence due to a calf injury. Lillard told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the team was taking "a proactive approach" to avoid him missing more time later.
In the two games since, however, Lillard posted a combined 64 points.
Malik Beasley scored 20 points on Friday after a season-high 30 points in Milwaukee's 128-112 win at Toronto on Wednesday.
"I love how we shared the ball and moved the ball and we're looking for each other. That's something we've been stressing in the last probably week or so," Bucks coach Adrian Griffin said in Friday's postgame news conference. Milwaukee totaled 32 assists at Charlotte after the Bucks had 25 assists at Toronto and 23 assists in Monday's 118-109 victory over Chicago.
All three games exceeded Milwaukee's season-long assist-per-game average, which at 22.7 heading into Friday's game, ranked near the bottom of the league.
"Giannis (Antetokounmpo) spearheaded that," Griffin said of the Bucks' ball distribution.
Despite being listed as questionable before Friday's game with a calf injury, Antetokounmpo had 16 points, a game-high nine assists and eight rebounds against the Hornets.
Dallas travels to Milwaukee on the final leg of a road swing that opened with two games against divisional counterpart New Orleans. The Mavericks split that set, winning 136-124 last Sunday and losing 131-110 on Tuesday.
Dallas bounced back with a 130-117 win at Washington on Wednesday. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored a season-high 31 points in the victory.
"I left a couple of points on the board," Hardaway said after the game. "Missed free throws. One-hundred-percent season down the drain."
Hardaway came into the game against Washington having hit all 27 of his free-throw attempts this season, but went 2-of-5 in the victory. He compensated by matching his season best with seven made 3-pointers.
The Mavericks come into Saturday's contest averaging 123.4 points per game, the NBA's second-highest output through games played on Thursday.
Hardaway (18.7) is one of four Mavericks scoring in double-figures to pace the prolific Dallas offense. He joins Grant Williams (11.2), Kyrie Irving (22.3) and Luka Doncic (30.7).
"Last year, the way it ended (not qualifying for the playoffs), I think that plays a big part in how we're viewing things this year," Hardaway said. "After a loss, trying to do the best we can not to lose two in a row, not let it trickle down and have an effect on us the next game."
Not only has Dallas avoided consecutive losses this season, but the Mavericks have won multiple games after each of their three losses. Defeating Milwaukee would continue that streak.
--Field Level Media