Joe Johnson knows drama.
Johnson hit a game-winning pull-up jump shot over Luc Mbah a Moute with 1.4 seconds left in overtime after also hitting a three-pointer over Mbah a Moute that tied the game as regulation ended.
Mbah a Moute got stuck coming around picks in regulation and gambled at poking away a steal just before the game-winner.
Johnson finished with 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting, plus five rebounds and five assists, though many of the points came with Monta Ellis guarding him.
Larry Sanders returned from a back injury in the game, and foul trouble limited his minutes. Despite the partly unwarranted whistles, Sanders blocked six shots, deterred many others, and flashed glimpses of the quick interior presence the Bucks have missed — on both defense and offense. He scored 12 points and grabbed half of his eight rebounds in the overtime period.
A game this close naturally leaves behind it a bunch of what-ifs: What if Brandon Jennings had fouled Deron Williams when Williams caught the inbounds pass in a deliberate fouling situation — up three points with five seconds left? What if Jennings’ floater on the Bucks’ final possession had rattled in instead of out after hitting every quadrant of the inside of the rim? And perhaps most egregiously: What if Ellis hadn’t tried a heat check 25-foot three-pointer with the Bucks nursing a three-point lead with just over a minute left in overtime? Ugh.
Overshadowed in the loss was a strong performance from Jennings who — in a surprise to no one — did the bulk of his work in the third quarter. Jennings scored 16 points in the quarter as the Bucks turned an eight-point deficit into a one-point lead. He finished with 34 points (on 26 shots), seven assists, and six rebounds.
The Nets threw a couple traps at Jennings late in the game to good effect. Jennings turned the ball over one time, and he was forced into calling a timeout on another. Again, in a close game… what if.
Ersan Ilyasova was on with both his jump shot and dribble drives after a fake (21 points, 9/16 FG). He also hustled around and generally did the Ersan things without getting beaten too badly by Kris Humphries or Reggie Evans on the glass.
Oddly, Jennings and Ellis both played over 48 minutes while Beno Udrih played just nine. I can see how the Bucks would want to exploit their speed advantage… but still.
Overall, the bench played blandly, and in the second half they didn’t play much at all. Only Mike Dunleavy and Ekpe Udoh played after halftime. Samuel Dalembert, in particular, looked a bit discombobulated after returning to a bench role.
If the Bucks are frustrated by the loss, they’ll get a chance to take out their pains tomorrow (unless there’s a trade before then). The Nets visit Milwaukee for a game tomorrow night.