For the second time in as many nights, the Brooklyn Nets (33-22) squeaked by the Milwaukee Bucks (26-27) in style. This time, however, Joe Johnson’s late-game heroics weren’t necessary.
Brooklyn opened up the fourth quarter on a 26-11 run and held a comfy 11-point lead, 94-83, with 1:50 left in regulation. While the BMO Harris Bradley Center began to empty, Milwaukee stormed off an improbable 11-2 run to cut Brooklyn’s lead to two, 96-94, with :06.9 remaining. The Bucks intentionally fouled Deron Williams — an 85.7 percent free throw shooter this season — who kept the door ajar by missing short on his second attempt. Monta Ellis corralled the rebound and called a timeout with :03.4 left.
The Bucks inbounded from side court, where Ellis freed himself up enough to catch the ball and miraculously draw a foul on a desperation three-point attempt with :02.4 remaining. He headed to the charity stripe with a chance to to tie the game.
Alas, he missed his first attempt. And his second attempt. And, intentionally, his third attempt. The ball trickled away harmlessly, time expired, and the Bucks fell to the Nets in heart-breaking fashion for a second consecutive night.
Ellis finished his forgettable night with 14 points on 5-15 shooting, five assists, four rebounds and six turnovers. His backcourt mate, Brandon Jennings, was left to pick up the scoring slack for much of the night. Jennings had a perfect first half from the field, where he scored 18 points on 7-7 shooting and dished out seven assists. He connected on his first two shots following intermission, as well, before crashing back to earth and missing six of his final nine attempts. Still, Jennings ended with an impressive stat line: 31 points, 11 assists, two rebounds and four turnovers.
Larry Sanders looked encouragingly spry for it being the latter half of a back-to-back set — his first since returning from injury. He visibly frustrated all-star center Brook Lopez from the opening tip. In the first quarter alone, Lopez had his shot blocked three times (twice by Sanders), shot 1-7 from the field — including a mid-range air ball — and turned the ball over on a travel. His night didn’t get much better, either, as he finished with just nine points (3-13 fg) and one rebound. In 29 minutes of action, Sanders scored 12 points (5-10 fg), grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots.
Milwaukee’s bench had a quiet night for the second consecutive game. Mike Dunleavy (10 points, six rebounds, two turnovers) was their only reserve player to score double-digits, while Andray Blatche and C.J. Watson (combined 29 points on 12-20 shooting) paced Brooklyn’s bench, which outscored Milwaukee’s 47-24.
The Bucks will have a couple days off before they reconvene Saturday to host the Atlanta Hawks — an intriguing opponent on several levels. With Thursday’s trade deadline (2 p.m. CST) looming, the two teams have been closely linked together in trade rumors, which have mostly centered around Josh Smith and Monta Ellis. It just so happens, too, that Saturday is scheduled to be Monta Ellis bobblehead night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Stay tuned.