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Bucks vs. Mavericks Final Score: Bayless-led bench brings Bucks back, but starters can't close in 103-93 loss

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Jerryd Bayless hadn't played in over three weeks, but ended up being the driving force behind the Bucks' clawing back into Monday's game against Dallas. Ultimately, it wasn't enough as the Bucks fell 103-93.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Despite struggling to take care of the ball and make shots throughout the first three quarters, the Bucks managed to keep the Mavericks' lead to just single digits before eventually tying the game with just under five minutes left. Unfortunately, though, the turnovers came back to bite the Bucks and they fell to the Mavericks 103-93, a score not entirely indicative of the game's closing minutes.

The Bucks' starters revealed how their night would go by giving up three 3-pointers in the first two minutes and quickly falling behind by eight points. For the quarter, the Bucks were outscored 34-24 and it was largely indicative of the starters' production on the night. The trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and Greg Monroe went a combined 9-for-27 with just three assists and three turnovers.

Like the starters in the first quarter, the Bucks' bench also set their tone for Monday night in the second period. Their impact, though, was considerably more positive. While playing just 45 first half minutes to the starters' 75, the bench scored 23 of the team's 51 first half points. Despite feeling much worse, the Bucks trailed the Mavericks by just nine at halftime.

The two teams were relatively even during the third quarter, but the Bucks' bench was able to make an impact again and bring Milwaukee back into the game in the fourth quarter. The unit of Bayless, Mayo, Middleton, O'Bryant and Plumlee started the fourth quarter trailing 79-72, and were able to bring the Bucks to within one at 88-87 with 5:47 remaining.

The game was eventually tied at 89 before the Bucks were unable to recover from back-to-back Wesley Matthews threes that put the Mavericks up 95-91 with 3:50 left in the game. Both teams went cold from that point with the Mavericks eventually adding a few points late on some free throws that came as a result of official Zack Zarba ejecting Khris Middleton from the game with just a few moments left.

While the Bucks were able to hold Dirk Nowitzki to just 3-of-15 shooting, Matthews went off for the Mavericks and hit five threes on his way to 22 points on the night. Meanwhile, Zaza Pachulia put together a great game against his former team with 17 points and eight rebounds, while limiting Monroe to just eight points on 3/10 shooting.

The Bucks will be in action again tomorrow night as they travel to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT on NBATV.

Tidbits:

  • Bayless was active for the first time since the Bucks' Dec. 4 game against the Pistons. He entered the game with 5 minutes left in the first quarter, played 27 minutes and scored 19 points in his return to action.
  • John Henson dressed, but missed Monday's game because of the big fall he took Saturday against the Raptors with his elbow, shoulder and hips all bothering him.
  • Early in the game, Pachulia really got the better of Monroe. Pachulia was able to draw a foul on Monroe and force him into an ugly turnover. Immediately after Monroe missed a mid-range jumper, Pachulia hit one.
  • The Bucks bench unit cut the Mavericks' 10-point lead to just five after five minutes of second quarter action before a few starters re-entered.
  • As noted by Bucksketball's Nick Whalen, the Bucks had six turnovers and six assists at halftime. The Mavericks had 16 assists and zero turnovers in the first half.
  • Bayless played the final 5:28 of the third quarter and the entire fourth quarter.
  • Conversely, Michael Carter-Williams exited with 5:28 left in the third quarter and didn't return to the game again.
  • Monroe ended the game with eight points and 11 rebounds on 3-of-10 shooting.
  • The Bucks' bench was responsible for 43 of the team's 93 points.
  • The plus-minuses of Bucks' starters: Parker (-14), Monroe (-19), Carter-Williams (-19), Middleton (-19), and Antetokounmpo (-23).
  • Zach Zarba, the official that ejected Middleton late in the game, was also a part of the incident that ended in a one-game suspension for Jason Kidd earlier this season.

Thoughts:

  • Much has been made of teams being more prepared for the Bucks defensive scheme and looking for skip passes and pressure-relieving outlets more regularly. This has certainly been true, but something else has gone overlooked. The Bucks have regularly failed to actually pressure the passer throwing the skip pass out of the post or, as Sean Sweeney and Marques Johnson talked about during the start of the second half, bring energy on the ball..
  • In the above video, watch Dirk Nowitzki closely. After initially taking Nowitzki's space away, Antetokounmpo backs off of Nowitzki and settles into a more relaxed defensive position. As he does that, Nowitzki whips a pass across court to Matthews for a three. Notice the trajectory of his pass. Now, watch O'Bryant defend Nowitzki. Despite there being 20 seconds on the shot clock, O'Bryant crowds Nowitzki and makes him uncomfortable. With O'Bryant in his space, Nowitzki opts for a skip pass, but while his first pass went in an almost perfectly straight line, his second pass has a more arced trajectory as Nowitzki is forced to throw it off his back foot.
  • I understand that the two situations and the players involved were different, but this clip does an excellent job showing why the Bucks defense is struggling. Last year, it was much more common to see a possession like the one with O'Bryant than it was to see a possession like the one with Antetokounmpo. The Bucks just haven't committed the same focus and effort to the defensive side of the ball this season.
  • Johnny O'Bryant makes decisive moves offensively and the Bucks' offense looks and flows so much better because of it. There are times when he makes the wrong decision or isn't talented enough to complete the move he makes, but his quick decision-making informs all of his teammates what they should be doing.
  • Antetokounmpo picked up his second foul of the night with two minutes left in the first quarter when he slapped Dwight Powell's hand off his back two times during a post-up. That is right. Antetokounmpo was dribbling a basketball in a post-up and using his off-hand to slap away the hands of a defender. Just so incredibly silly.
  • While other games have been rough to watch, this game was especially painful because so many of the differences between the teams were so obvious. The Mavericks move the ball exquisitely. The Bucks seem to barely move the ball at all. Pachulia effortlessly makes multiple rotations on defense. Monroe struggles to make a rotation on defense. Matthews hits an inexplicably open 3-pointer. Middleton misses a more contested 3-pointer. Losing can be painful to watch, but seeing a team play the version of basketball that many have desperately campaigned for the Bucks to play makes it excruciating.