Middleton's clutch shooting lifts Bucks over Mavs 109-102
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 11 rebounds, Khris Middleton scored 12 of his 31 points in the final 4:38, and the Milwaukee Bucks rallied for a 109-102 win over the last-place Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.
Eric Bledsoe added 24 points for the Bucks, who erased an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter to pick up their fifth win in six games.
The Bucks turned up the defensive pressure during a chippy final few minutes, highlighted by Middleton's four-point play sandwiched between two Dallas turnovers.
Middleton finished 10 of 18 from the field, including 5 of 6 in the fourth. The 6-foot-8 forward is a tough matchup because of his length and shooting ability, especially when paired with the athletic Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt.
But the worst team in the Western Conference didn't wither away on the road against an East contender. The Mavericks played the Bucks tough until the end, as they did in a loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
Wesley Matthews had a season-high 29 points to lead Dallas. He scored 15 in the first half on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, to give the Mavericks a 54-49 lead going into the locker room.
Shooting 6 of 13 (46 percent) from beyond the arc in the half, the Mavs tried to follow a formula similar to their 32-point win over Milwaukee on Nov. 18, when they shot 19 of 38 (50 percent) from 3-point range.
This time, the Bucks answered with clutch jumpers and improved defense.
They used a 12-0 late in the third quarter sparked by two 3s from Middleton and the playmaking ability of Malcolm Brogdon to take a 77-76 lead after looking lethargic for much of the game.
Mavericks: Rookie G Dennis Smith Jr. missed the game with a strained left hip after getting hurt during Wednesday's loss to the Celtics. Dallas' first-round draft pick is also expected to miss Sunday's game at Minnesota. "We're just unlucky. He came in, slid in, landed into a cameraman and kind of took his leg out," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We're hoping it's not serious."
Bucks: G Tony Snell missed the game with left knee tendinitis. G Matthew Dellavedova (left knee) appears to be getting closer to returning. He was questionable coming into Friday but was scratched by coach Jason Kidd before the game. The team said Snell and Dellavedova would be questionable for Saturday's game against Utah. ... G Gary Payton II replaced Snell in the starting lineup but played just 5 minutes, with Brogdon (14 points) starting the second half and playing 40 minutes overall.
Mavericks: Travel to Minnesota on Sunday to wrap up a three-game trip.
Bucks: Try to split the season series with Utah when they host the Jazz on Saturday.