By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange
MILWAUKEE — A little more than two weeks ago, the Mavericks flat-out humiliated the Milwaukee Bucks, rolling to an easy 32-point victory in Dallas.
For the first 30 minutes of their rematch Friday night in Milwaukee, it looked like the Mavericks might do it again.
But Khris Middleton and Eric Bledsoe took over down the stretch, combining for 27 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Bucks to a 109-102 victory over Dallas at the Bradley Center.
“Khris was great,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said.
Middleton finished with a game-high 31 points and accounted for five of the Bucks’ eight 3-pointers. Bledsoe added two more and finished with 24 for Milwaukee, which won for the fifth time in its last six games.
“I just got into a rhythm,” said Middleton, who at one point scored 12 straight points. “I was able to create a little bit of space for myself. Most of them were catch-and-shoot 3s. For the most part, I was just able to get space, just find a rhythm and find the open shot.”
Wesley Matthews led Dallas (7-19) with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including a 5-of-7 mark from beyond the arc. The Mavericks shot 46.7 percent from the floor but couldn’t get stops on the defensive end in the fourth quarter as Milwaukee connected at a 57.9 percent (11 of 19) clip.
“We’ve got to put together 48 minutes,” Matthews said. “Play hard the whole time, the whole way through. Not put ourselves in position for 34 free throws to affect us.”
Dallas was also burned by a disparity at the free-throw line. Milwaukee made 29 of 34 attempts while the Mavericks went to the line 26 times, though they made 22.
“There’s always going to be disputes on calls and disagreements, but we were physical and they were physical,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Some of the calls didn’t go our way but they were relatively consistent. That’s all you can ask for.”
Just as they did the last time out, the Mavs took control early and opened up a 10-point lead early in the second quarter when Matthews drained a 13-foot turnaround jumper.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 17 of his 27 in the first half, but the Bucks shot 37.5 percent while the Mavericks made six from distance and were 19 of 39 overall to take a 54-49 lead into halftime.
Milwaukee used a 12-0 run in the final minutes of the third to take a 77-76 lead when Middleton sank a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in the quarter.
Dirk Nowitzki put Dallas back in front with two free throws and the Mavericks opened the fourth leading 78-77.
Again, the Bucks rallied. Bledsoe scored six points in a 7-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer from the corner that put Milwaukee up six with 6:55 left.
A pair of 3-pointers from Matthews helped Dallas tie it at 95, and the Mavericks kept it close until Middleton converted a four-point play with 3:03 to go.
Middleton came up big again a minute later with an open 8-footer. He and Bledsoe each hit two free throws in the final 20 seconds to close it out.
“I don’t know if we closed any of the quarters well,” Carlisle said. “We had a good cushion in the first and didn’t win the two-minute battle in any of the quarters. That’s something that’s always an emphasis for us. You lose four in a row of those on the road and it makes things really tough.”