Thanks for all of the advice! I agree with you especially about the last part with the missions being way too hard and way too dangerous. I managed to complete 4 of the 6 missions but lost at least 2 balls directly during missions (I think I had 6 or 7 balls total).
Managed to take the lead, although it was a very long game:
Also, for most of the late game I managed to keep the kickbacks activated most of the time, but in the early game I saved at least twice using a well timed bump. I think throughout the whole game I probably saved 5 times that way. It's almost necessary to get a high score I think. You can actually try a bump pretty early I found since the ball tends to come in really shallow and bank off of one of the other lanes before it finds its way to the outlanes, if you just jiggle it the right way when it starts heading in the wrong direction, that can be enough to kick it off and back to your paddles. Otherwise you have to time the bump perfectly for that moment when the ball hits the wall and hesitates for a second before draining.. for that bump I don't know that the bump left or right direction matters at all, it really doesn't have anywhere to go but out.