Mavericks seek rebound against Bucks after surprising loss

The Dallas Mavericks are intent on a rebound on the heels of a demoralizing defeat when they host the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.

Dallas was thriving with a season-best five straight victories until momentum evaporated Wednesday.

The visiting Mavericks shot just 37.9 percent from the field and were 10 of 39 from 3-point range while succumbing 102-93 to the lowly Houston Rockets.

The dreadful outing came two nights after the Mavericks defeated the NBA-best Utah Jazz 111-103 in Dallas.

Dallas was outplayed most of the night by the Rockets, but recovered from an 11-point deficit after three quarters to tie the score at 89. But the energy vanished and the Mavericks were outscored 13-4 down the stretch.

“We played a horrible game as a team,” All-Star point guard Luka Doncic said afterward. “We just got to flush it out and continue to play.”

Doncic scored 23 points but was 1 of 9 from 3-point range and a shaky 9 of 26 overall. Josh Richardson missed all nine of his shots, six coming from behind the arc.

“Anybody can have a bad game,” a highly frustrated Doncic said. “Bad game by us, bad game by me, horrible game by me. Anybody can have a bad game, right?”

The Bucks might be answering ‘yes’ to that question as they ponder the possibility of being without two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) for the third consecutive game and the fifth in the past 10 contests. Antetokounmpo is listed as doubtful.

Milwaukee lost 122-121 to the host Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night as point guard Jrue Holiday (eight) and forward Khris Middleton (five) combined for 13 turnovers.

Holiday saw the ball-handling issues as a bunch of wasted possessions, something coach Mike Budenholzer was emphasizing the need to avoid earlier in the day.

“For myself, I had eight turnovers,” Holiday said. “That’s a big part of what Bud was saying before the game. Just not giving up easy baskets like that or careless ones, so that’s something I gotta get better at.”

The health of Antetokounmpo is at least an underlying concern, as Milwaukee was expecting its star to play against the Warriors before the knee flared up in pregame warmups.

“Just made the decision that (Tuesday) was not a good night, a night he should be out,” Budenholzer said.

The perennial All-Star looked superb last Friday night when he matched his season best of 47 points on splendid 18-of-21 shooting in a 127-109 road victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. He also collected 12 rebounds and three blocked shots

But he has since missed games against the Sacramento Kings and Warriors and a return on Thursday seems pretty bleak with the Bucks also slated to play Friday at home against the Charlotte Hornets.

Bobby Portis started in place of Antetokounmpo against Golden State and matched his season best of 13 rebounds while scoring 13 points.

Milwaukee also could be without veteran forward P.J. Tucker (calf) for the eighth straight game.

Holiday scored 29 points and Middleton added 28 in the loss to the Warriors.

As for Dallas, big man Kristaps Porzingis was back from a two-game absence due to a wrist injury and had 23 points and 12 rebounds in the loss to Houston. Porzingis made 10 of 19 field-goal attempts.

Antetokounmpo recorded 31 points and Middleton added 25 when Milwaukee posted a 112-109 home win over the Mavericks on Jan. 15. Doncic had a triple-double with 28 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds while Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 points.

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