MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Bucks will be hoping for a repeat performance from their bench Friday night when they play host to the Dallas Mavericks at the Bradley Center.
The trade of Greg Monroe to Phoenix for Eric Bledsoe and injuries to Mirza Teletovic, Matthew Dellavedova and now Jason Terry have left Milwaukee’s bench woefully short-handed for the last month, putting extra pressure on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the rest of the starters to carry a greater load on both ends of the court.
However, the Bucks got a big boost from their reserves Wednesday night in a 104-100 victory over the Detroit Pistons, especially from Rashad Vaughn. The guard scored in double figures for the second time this season with 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers. He added five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 17 minutes.
“With a couple of guys down, some guys who don’t really play as much have to step up,” Vaughn said. “I answered when my name was called.”
The Bucks’ bench is last in the league with an average of just 22.9 points per game. The reserves are shooting 41.8 percent, good for 26th among the 30 teams.
On defense, the second unit hasn’t been much better. Milwaukee’s reserves are allowing opponents to shoot 47.1 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc.
That group was a big reason why the Bucks were embarrassed in a 111-79 loss at Dallas on Nov. 18. The Mavericks used a 21-6 run spanning the end of the first and start of the second quarters to take control of the game while Milwaukee’s three leading reserves — Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker and DeAndre Liggins — combined to go 4-for-20 from the floor.
“Our bench was awful,” Kidd said after that loss. “We’ve got to do better.”
Dallas was 2-14 heading into that meeting with the Bucks but has gone 5-4 since then with a pair of two-game win streaks. The Mavericks will be looking for their third win in four tries after falling 97-90 at Boston on Wednesday night.
After the game in Milwaukee, the Mavericks play at Minnesota on Sunday.
“It’s tough to play on the road,” veteran Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “This is a tough trip for us against three really, really good teams.
“We just have to play hard and stop the runs a little quicker. Get some of those loose balls. Get some of those bad offensive rebounds; eliminate them. (The Celtics) had a couple of those that hit us. … Just being a little more solid, getting our hands on a few more balls. In tied games, it usually comes down to a few more possessions here and there. Got to be a little smarter, get some big rebounds and you also got to score when it matters down the stretch.”
In his 20th — and possibly final — season, Nowitzki is averaging 11.3 points per game, his lowest total since scoring 8.2 as a rookie. However, he is shooting at a 45.8 percent clip and has made 42 percent of his 3-point attempts while playing nearly 25 minutes a night.
His German countryman, Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber, meanwhile, has seen his role grow and minutes improve as his game develops quickly. The 6-foot-10 rookie recorded five blocks against the Celtics on Wednesday night and he finished with 13 points and five rebounds.
In 19 games this season, including 10 starts, Kleber is averaging 4.9 points on 53.5 percent shooting with 3.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.
“He knows how to play,” Nowitzki said. “He’s way more athletic than I thought, so he’s a great all-around player. He’s a way better rebounder than I thought.”
Dallas has won three straight against the Bucks and nine of the past 10 games in the series.