The Milwaukee Bucks, winners in four of their last five, will be out to avenge one of the more embarrassing losses in recent memory, a 32 point beat-down by the lowly Mavericks. The Bucks went down 79-111, allowing the Mavericks to break a franchise record in knocking down 19 three pointers, making shots from all angles on a forgettable night for Milwaukee.
Offensively, things were just as bad, as the team shot 37% from the field and 24% from deep. These numbers are incredibly low considering that Khris Middleton had a hot shooting night, hitting 9 of 12 attempts on route to 23 points. When Middleton’s numbers are removed, the Bucks shot 19-62 overall, 30.6%, yikes.
The loss was the Bucks’ first since acquiring Eric Bledsoe, winning their previous four. Since then, the new ‘big three’ have formed significant chemistry and have become one of the leagues’ highest scoring trios.
It was another high scoring night for Giannis Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Bledsoe against the Pistons Wednesday. Combining for 68 points and icing the game late, they helped the Bucks avenge a disappointing loss in Boston two nights earlier.
After opening up a 90-77 lead with 6:42 left in the game, Milwaukee looked set to coast to an easy win against Detroit. But from that moment on, the Bucks went cold allowing the Pistons to make a run, closing the deficit to three points with 1:17 left on a Tobias Harris three point make.
Enter Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe had his first huge late game moments as a Buck, first calmly knocking down a mid range jumper to stretch the lead to 97-92 with 1:02 left. Then, after Reggie Jackson again closed the gap to 3, Bledsoe attacked the rim, his lay-up attempt just missing, but somehow, in a crowd of big men, Bledsoe was able to rise above all of them to tip in his own miss.
The Bucks had extended the lead to 99-94 with 0:32 left, and the Pistons called time. Bledsoe had delivered in the clutch. From that point, it was a free throw game, astonishingly started by Kidd who decided to intentionally foul the Pistons and extend the game longer then necessary. Luckily, Middleton cooly knocked down four free throws and sealed the 104-100 victory.
A particularly pleasing takeaway from the win was the performance of Rashad Vaughn, who in the absence of Jason Terry (calf strain), provided a desperately needed boost off the bench with 11 points and five rebounds in 17 minutes. It was Vaughn’s first meaningful minutes since having games with 12 points and then nine in early November. With Terry expected to miss four weeks minimum, the battle for back up guard minutes figures to be between Vaughn and rookie Sterling Brown until Matthew Dellavedova returns (knee).
Including the victory against the Bucks, Dallas have been able to remain competitive as of late, winning five of their last nine games. Coming off a 90-97 loss to Boston, Dallas will be looking for a repeat performance against Milwaukee and a return to the winners’ list. The Dallas offense, paced by Harrison Barnes’ 18.5 points per game has an array of players that can hurt the Bucks from the outside with Dirk Nowitzki, Wes Matthews and perennial Bucks killer, J.J Barea all knocking down over 39% of their attempts from beyond the arc.
For Milwaukee, the recently used switching rather then trapping defense has been a pleasant sight. With the tweak in scheme, nights like the last visit to Dallas, should become rare occurrence rather then the norm. The Mavericks made their fair share of difficult shots that night, as it happens, but if the Bucks can avoid handing out wide open looks, it will go along way to securing a victory.
Locking down on defense, finding bench contributions and getting any rebounding at all out of the center duo of Thon Maker and John Henson are going to be keys to victory.
Oh yeah, another 65+ points from Bledsoe, Giannis and Middleton would also help.
Follow Kane Pitman on twitter: @mkebucksaus.