MILWAUKEE — The NBA’s longest winning streak is over.
After rolling off 18 consecutive victories, the Milwaukee Bucks have tasted defeat for the first time since Nov. 8 following a 120-116 loss to the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. The Mavericks are the first team in NBA history to snap a single-season win streak of 15-plus games without its leading scorer, according to Elias Sports Bureau data.
The Mavericks were playing without Doncic, who could miss two weeks with a moderate right ankle sprain.
Dallas’ previous record for longest win-streak snap was 12 games. They did so twice, halting the Heat’s 12-game win streak in 2010-11 and also breaking the Spurs’ 12-game win streak that same season.
“We want to come into every game, no matter if it’s on the road or at home, and we want to win,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “Tonight, we did a lot of good things out there. We still have a lot to work on, we have a lot of room to grow as a team. But today was a step forward for us.”
The Mavericks came out forcefully, building a 14-point lead by the end of the first quarter. By halftime, the Bucks had whittled Dallas’ advantage down to just three, but with three minutes left in the third quarter, the Mavericks’ lead had ballooned back up to 11.
Milwaukee managed to summon a spurt in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Mavericks led 110-95 when the Bucks called a timeout with 3 minutes, 13 seconds left to play. From there, Milwaukee went on a 21-9 run, culminating in Antetokounmpo’s scoring and drawing a foul from Maxi Kleber with 5.2 seconds remaining to cut the lead to three.
Antetokounmpo missed the free throw, but Sterling Brown was able to snatch the rebound. Porzingis swooped in over the top of Brown, deflecting his putback attempt. The Mavericks’ win was sealed after Tim Hardaway Jr. split a pair of free throws and the Bucks were unable to score after their last timeout.
“It was kind of unnecessary,” Porzingis said after the game. “We should have finished the game a little bit earlier. It was a little bit scary, but at the end, we got the win.”
With the win, the Mavericks improved to 10-2 on the road — with only the Lakers and the Bucks boasting better road records. At home, though, Dallas is a mere 8-6.
“That just shows we’re a better road team than a home team,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “We got to fix that real quick.”
Despite 48 points, 14 rebounds and four assists from Antetokounmpo, the Bucks shot just 41.9% as a team.
The 18 straight wins are second-best in franchise history, behind the 20-game win streak last accomplished by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 1970-71 NBA championship Bucks squad.
Entering Monday’s game, the Bucks were averaging league highs in points (121.9 per game), rebounds (50.9 per game) and field goal percentage (49.9%), while outscoring their opponents by an average of 15.9 points per game.
Coming into the game Monday, the Bucks had done their best to temper any excitement regarding the streak. After all, it was only the regular season. But after it was over, Antetokounmpo said that the whole experience was “unbelievable.”
“At the end of the day, it was amazing,” Antetokounmpo said. “We played good basketball. We played good teams, we played bad teams. But we were able to get the job done. Tonight, we weren’t able to do that. But nobody said it was going to be easy.”
Seth Curry and Porzingis led the way for Dallas in Doncic’s absence to combine for 52 points with 26 apiece.
“Luka is responding well to treatment,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He is off crutches and out of a boot. He’s progressing well. He will not play on Wednesday, and if there is any update, it will be Wednesday night. It may not be much of an update at that point, but he’s doing well.”
Although Doncic wasn’t in attendance, the star guard tweeted words of encouragement throughout the game from his official page.
At the end of the third quarter, he tweeted: “1 more to go!!” as the Bucks faced their largest deficit of the 18-game winning streak, down 86-76 entering the fourth, and couldn’t recover.
Milwaukee will host the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday in one of the most anticipated regular-season games of the season featuring the top two teams in the league.
“Get healthy,” Porzingis said when asked what his message to Doncic was. “We need you back.”