The Nets got here to Milwaukee atop the Eastern Conference. After getting swept by the Bucks in an enormous two-game sequence, they left as shut to third place as to first.
They blew a fourth-quarter lead and imploded in a 124-118 loss earlier than a sellout crowd of three,280 at Fiserv Forum. And it might end up to be a expensive defeat.
The Bucks (41-24) regarded hungrier. Nastier. And — with James Harden nonetheless out with a proper hamstring pressure — Milwaukee regarded higher.
Kyrie Irving had a game-high 38 factors and Kevin Durant added 32. But Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 for the Bucks, who gouged the Nets on the glass 55-39, and flipped the sport with an 18-1 fourth-quarter run.
After arriving in first place in the East, a half-game forward of the 76ers, the Nets (43-23) misplaced Sunday and Tuesday. Not solely have they fallen 1 ½ video games behind idle Philadelphia, however they’re now additionally simply 1 ½ away from the hard-charging Bucks.
The Nets even have misplaced the season-series tiebreaker to Milwaukee and sit only a sport forward in the loss column, so even holding on to the second seed isn’t any certain factor. Not with Philadelphia having fun with the best stretch run in the whole NBA, and Milwaukee having the fourth-softest in the East earlier than Tuesday.
The Nets could effectively come to rue this one. They led 103-97 early in the fourth quarter, solely to give up that game-deciding 18-1 run.
The Nets had been 0-for-5 with a few turnovers through the skid, which lasted greater than 4 minutes. Milwaukee, in the meantime, went eight-for-14, together with an all-too-easy drive by Khris Middleton (23 factors).
Middleton’s driving floater got here towards no defensive resistance in any respect, making the Nets’ deficit 115-104 with 5:52 to play.
A ten-3 Nets run ultimately lower the deficit to 122-118 on free throws by Irving with a minute left. But they obtained no nearer.
While a lot can occur between now and the regular-season finale, the Nets and Bucks are on a collision course to meet in the second spherical.
The Nets received the primary assembly, Jan. 18 at Barclays Center. That, nonetheless, was behind 34 factors, 12 rebounds and 6 assists from Harden, the third MVP on these groups’ rosters (after Durant and Antetokounmpo), and one who might tilt the deck in the direction of the Nets. They hope.
Harden was sorely missed in these final two losses.
Irving’s pull-up 3-pointer gave the Nets a 51-48 lead with 6:15 left in the second quarter, however they allowed an 18-7 run to shut out the half down by eight.
It was knotted at 55-all after a Landry Shamet 3-pointer with 4:02 remaining earlier than the break. But the Nets all of the sudden went ice-cold and gave up the momentum.
The Nets missed six straight photographs and dedicated a few turnovers in conceding 9 unanswered factors.
Irving’s turnover off an inbound move led to a Bobby Portis transition dunk. And Middleton’s free throws left the Nets in a 64-55 gap that proved too deep to climb out of.
They went three minutes with out a level, and three:34 with out a basket, till Irving’s layup with 28.5 seconds left in the half. That drought price them dearly.
It will not be clear how a lot it prices till the common season is finished and the playoff seeds are set.
The Nets nonetheless trailed 78-68 after a Jrue Holiday 3-pointer with 6:55 to go in the third quarter. But after having gone large to begin off the sport, unsuccessfully, the Nets went small and located at the very least a bit of success. A ten-3 run obtained them inside 81-78 on an Irving financial institution shot.
Down 85-78 after an Antetokounmpo finger roll with 2:51 remaining in the third, the Nets closed the interval on a 16-7 spurt. Bruce Brown got here in and introduced some much-needed grit, and the sport nearly immediately obtained chippier.
Durant hit a 3-pointer to put the Nets again forward 89-88, and he obtained into some long-running trash discuss with P.J. Tucker that lasted a number of possessions. Blake Griffin obtained hit with a technical, and the Nets pulled forward 94-92 after three.
Both Irving and Durant sat to open the fourth, however Mike James discovered first Jeff Green, then Griffin for nook 3s to pad the lead to 100-95. He hit a side-step 3-pointer of his personal to make it 103-97. But it was a lead the Nets couldn’t maintain.