MILWAUKEE, April 26 (Ticker) --
The Milwaukee Bucks tried to give it away,
but the New Jersey Nets would not take it.
and Michael Redd
hit crucial 3-pointers late in
overtime as the Bucks survived a shocking collapse in the fourth
quarter to hold off the Nets, 119-114, and even the Eastern
Conference first-round series at two wins apiece.
Milwaukee appeared to be in control, holding a 99-85 lead with
6:33 remaining in regulation. But the Bucks went scoreless for
more than five minutes and scored just one point for the
remainder of the fourth period.
"It was a (heck) of a win for us," Milwaukee coach George Karl
said. "A lot of things went against us. They had two players
playing well in (Kenyon) Martin
. There were offensive stretches where we were really
good and others where we were bad. A lot of calls went against
us, but we stayed in there and got in the mental toughness of
While the Nets erased the deficit with a 14-0 run, they did not
take full advantage, missing 8-of-12 free throws in the final
3:50 of regulation. They fell short despite shooting 52 percent
from the field (39-of-75).
"Obviously, at the end, free throws were the thing that hurt
us," New Jersey coach Byron Scott said. "The things that hurt us
tonight were free throws and rebounds. We didn't dominate them
on the boards like we have been."
Trailing 109-107, the Nets missed a chance to tie it as Lucious
hit only 1-of-2 from the line with 2:15 left. Kukoc's
3-pointer made it 112-108 with 1:47 remaining.
After Jason Collins'
follow shot pulled the Nets within two,
Redd drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Bucks
a 115-110 lead with 76 seconds to go.
Martin made two from the line with 1:07 to go and Gary Payton
and Kukoc missed jumpers for the Bucks, giving the Nets a chance
But Martin's 3-pointer from the left wing bounced off the front
of the rim with eight seconds left. Sam Cassell
foul shots in the final six seconds to put away the victory.
"Our bench is probably the key to our team," Karl said. "Michael
Redd and Toni Kukoc would get MVP votes on our team."
Kukoc scored 23 points and Cassell added 21 for the Bucks, who
recorded a season-high 36 points in the third quarter to turn a
one-point halftime deficit into a 12-point lead entering the
Kukoc bounced back after being held to only seven points in
Thursday's 103-101 loss.
"He didn't score in Game Three and we lost," Payton said. "I
went to him after the game and told him he needed to be more
aggressive, and I'm going to keep putting that bug in his ear."
Karl spoke at a pregame pep rally, imploring the fans for
support, telling them that if the Bucks could get a lead, the
Nets would not be able to come from behind.
Those words nearly came back to haunt him as the Bucks collapsed
after Cassell's 3-pointer made it 99-85.
But the Nets never got the lead, even though they had a number
of chances. With New Jersey trailing, 100-99, Collins had an
opportunity to put the Nets ahead, only to miss a pair from the
line with 1:12 remaining.
"We left New Jersey talking about winning both (in Milwaukee),"
Scott said. "So in a sense, we are disappointed. The main
objective is to get home-court advantage back and we did that.
Now, we need to take care of business there."
After Payton missed a jumper, the Nets had yet another chance
from the line. This time, Jefferson could only make 1-of-2,
leaving the contest tied with 28.5 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing possession, the Bucks got the ball to Kukoc, but
he was tightly guarded by Martin and missed a fallaway jumper
from the right baseline.
The Nets had a chance to win it, but Jason Kidd's off-balanced
jumper from the foul line fell short of the rim, forcing
Martin and Jefferson led the Nets with 30 and 26 points,
respectively. Harris added 19 off the bench.
"We should have won this game," Harris said. "If we could have
made those free throws, we would have won this game. We kept
taking their punches and coming back. Those free throws we
missed cost us the game. You aren't going to make them all, but
down the stretch we need to make them."
Coming off a heartbreaking loss in Game Three, the Bucks were
flat early and fell behind 24-11 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the
first period. Milwaukee regrouped and closed within 52-51 at the
Payton believes the Bucks need a better start in Game Five on
Tuesday at Continental Airlines Arena.
"We need to come out more motivated and play stronger in the
first quarter," said Payton, who contributed 20 points and 14
rebounds. "We can't let them jump on us like that in Jersey or
it'll get out of hand."
, who was held to eight points on just 2-of-8 shooting
in the first half, provided a spark in the third quarter for
the Bucks. He made three 3-pointers and scored 12 of his 20
points in the period.
Thomas' third 3-pointer of the third made it 77-63 with 4:07
left in the third.
The Bucks made 11-of-24 3-pointers, while the Nets were just
3-of-10 from beyond the arc.
Game Five is Tuesday at Continental Airlines Arena.