Early MVP contenders clash as Mavericks visit Bucks
In their most recent games, Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his 20th career triple-double to extend the Milwaukee Bucks' win streak, while Luka Doncic fell one assist shy of notching his third in four games for the Dallas Mavericks.
Antetokounmpo and Doncic look to continue their success at the other's expense on Friday when the Bucks host the Mavericks.
Let's start with Antetokounmpo, who had two stellar performances against Dallas last season -- albeit in a pair of losses. He erupted for 48 points and 14 rebounds in Milwaukee's 120-116 loss on Dec. 16, 2019, and had 34 and 13, respectively, in the Bucks' 136-132 overtime setback on Aug. 8.
Doncic wasn't available for the first clash due to an ailing ankle, however he showed up for the latter one. Doncic had 36 points, a career-high 19 assists and 14 rebounds to help Dallas notch a sweep in the season series.
Now, back to the not-so-distant past. Antetokounmpo collected 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in Milwaukee's 110-101 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
The two-time NBA Most Valuable Player averages team-best totals in (26.2) and rebounds (10.1) this season, while his assists (5.5) are second only to Khris Middleton (5.7).
Jrue Holiday is third in points (15.2) and assists (5.0), and his 21-point, five-assist performance versus the Pistons did nothing to hurt those numbers. The 30-year-old made 8 of 13 shots from the floor to finish with his highest point total since he erupted for 24 in a romp over the Miami Heat on Dec. 29.
"I knew he was really good, but every day I play with him, I realize how good a person he is, good a teammate he is, and how much better he is than what I thought," Antetokounmpo said.
While the Bucks have won three in a row and six of seven, Doncic paced the Mavericks to their fourth straight victory.
Doncic collected 34 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and a career-high four blocks in Dallas' 104-93 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.
Impressive numbers to be certain, but the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week wasn't alone.
Kristaps Porzingis made four 3-pointers to highlight his 16-point performance in his season debut. The 7-foot-3 star was playing for the first time since tearing his meniscus in his right knee during the Mavericks' playoff setback to the Los Angeles Clippers in August.
"When both of those guys are out there at the same time it's a game changer for us," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "They are two guys who can play on the inside and space the court on the outside."
Dallas could use the bodies on the court, considering the laundry list of players on the sideline. It's not immediately known when Josh Richardson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleber and Dwight Powell might return from health and safety protocols.
"The next 10 days to two weeks are going to be a great challenge for us, but we've got a tight group that's looking forward to it," Carlisle said.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 15, 2021