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Bucks vs. Mavs Final Score: Khris Middleton and Michael Carter-Williams help Bucks survive Dallas comeback, 96-95

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Bucks' habit of allowing open threes has lost them a good chunk of games this season. On Friday night it might actually have won them one.

Khris Middleton scored 27 points -- including the eventual game-winner with 9.1 seconds left -- and Michael Carter-Williams delivered a near-triple double to help the Bucks build a 16-point halftime and then hang on for dear life against the trigger-happy Dallas Mavericks, 96-95 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Dallas tied an NBA season-high with 44 three point attempts, but fortunately for the Bucks they made just 14 of them (31%). The Mavs' inaccuracy and the Bucks' 56-32 edge in the paint ultimately spelled defeat for Rick Carlisle's squad, though the Bucks could count themselves lucky that Dallas didn't punish them more often from distance. Dirk Nowitzki didn't have his A-game but still schooled Jabari Parker and Giannis Antetokounmpo for 20 points and nine boards, while Wauwatosa native Devin Harris added 19 on 12 shots.

With Dallas leading 95-94, John Henson made the defensive play of the game by deflecting Dirk Nowitzki's pass, which in turn set up a tricky pull-up bank shot from Middleton in transition a few seconds later. Dallas still had one final shot to win, but Carter-Williams doubled a driving Dirk and then recovered to run Deron Williams off the three point line, forcing up a jumper off the dribble that went awry at the buzzer.

Without attempting a three, Middleton scored 12 points in the first quarter and 17 in the half as the Bucks shot 55% and held watched Dallas hit just 6/26 from deep and 32% overall. That staked Milwaukee to a 55-39 edge at the intermission, but the Maverick's cold shooting predictably didn't last. They promptly ripped off a 12-2 run to start the second half, though the Bucks didn't fold. MCW and Middleton each scored six as the Bucks carried a 79-75 lead into the fourth, but two O.J. Mayo threes helped the Bucks extend the lead back to 89-81 midway through the third.

Unfortunately for the Bucks, Nowitzki, Wes Matthews and Ray Felton (twice) combined for four threes in a span of less than three minutes, tying the game at 93 with 2:50 remaining.

Observations

  • MCW was everywhere tonight, scoring 15 points on 10 shots to go with 12 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and three turnovers. His playmaking on both ends has been terrific: terrific interior passes to Giannis and Henson were particularly memorable, and he had a huge chase-down block on Raymond Felton with the game tied at 93. Past six games: 14.3 ppg, 8.2 apg, 7.0 rpg, 2.5 spg, 1.3 bpg, 2.0 turnovers on 50% shooting from the field and 3/4 from three. We'll see if he can keep it up, but he's played arguably the best ball of his career the past few weeks.
  • What more can you say about Khris Middleton? His last 10 games: 23.6 ppg, 5.3 apg, .544/.500/.881.
  • During the FS Wisconsin broadcast, Gus Johnson noted that O.J. Mayo has been battling an injured finger on his right hand recently, which hopefully explains some of Juice's season-long shooting struggles. Thankfully, Mayo shook off a slow start by making a series of big plays against his former teams, most notably a pair of threes in the fourth quarter (11 points total) to go with six assists. Good on ya, Juice.
  • Really rough night for Giannis. After gyro-stepping around Zaza for a pretty bucket early on, he missed his next five shots and three of four free throws. His only other basket came on a baseline cut  for a dunk from MCW, and he struggled to keep Dirk from driving on him in the fourth. Can we burn the videotape and move on?
  • Jabari Parker fared somewhat better, scoring 10 points on 4/9 shots before taking his all-too-usual seat on the bench for most of the fourth. While the Mavericks were gobbling up 15 offensive rebounds, he failed to grab a single defensive board and lost Dirk repeatedly in halfcourt. On the bright side, he did do this:
  • An active night from Henson paid big dividends on the offensive end, where he used his length to hit 8/9 shots over his old buddy Zaza Pachulia. Still, Pachulia reminded the Bucks what they were missing by hitting 4/6 shots and killing his former teammates on the offensive glass (eight offensive rebounds, 15 total). Greg Monroe nearly matched him with seven offensive rebounds and 12 total, but he hit just 3/10 from the field -- as has often been the case, lots of interior misses and ignored pleas for "and one!"
  • Zaza is on the shortlist of guys who should forever be adored in Milwaukee. Unfortunately he didn't feel too respected on Friday night. Disappointing.
  • The Mavs became the 17th team in NBA history to attempt at least 44 threes in a game, finishing the night just five shy of the NBA and franchise record 49 attempts that Dallas established back in 1996. Their 44 attempts also matched the Rockets' NBA season high.