Nets 119, Bucks 116: Brooklyn Knocks Off League-Leading Milwaukee

Against daunting odds, the Brooklyn Nets put forth a spirited effort and a stunning result on Tuesday afternoon on the NBA Campus in Orlando, knocking off the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks 119-116.

Coming off of Sunday’s crucial win over the Washington Wizards in which the Nets got big minutes and big-time scoring games out of Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen, they went without all three against the Bucks. Head coach Jacque Vaughn announced after Monday’s practice that the trio would be out, leaving the Nets with a makeshift lineup against the team with the NBA’s best record and the defending — and likely repeat — MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But after fighting off an early burst from the Bucks, the Nets exploded for a blistering offensive performance up through halftime, then came up with clutch shots and a final defensive stand after Milwaukee had closed the margin.

“I think we had a very aggressive approach about us,” said Vaughn. “We really pushed the pace, tried to get threes early and often, and we were really unselfish. I think that theme carried over throughout the course of the night.”

Brooklyn led by as many as 11 points, with a 76-65 lead early in the third quarter, before the Bucks chipped away and eventually caught up at 104 all with just under six minutes to go.

With the Nets trailing 110-109, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer at the three-minute mark and then followed up with another for a 115-110 lead, and Brooklyn never trailed again.

Luwawu-Cabarrot led Brooklyn with a career-high 26 points, shooting 5-of-7 from 3-point range and 8-of-12 overall.

“Tim was amazing for us,” said Temple. “Last game he was great for us. Honestly it's the whole time we've been in here in the bubble besides the first two or three preseason games he's been really great for us. So we needed him to be aggressive tonight with Caris, Joe and JA being out. He took his spot, took shots that were given to him, he protected the basket in a great way.”

Temple contributed in the clutch as well. After Milwaukee had gone ahead 107-104, his 3-pointer tied the game, and he fed a cutting Chris Chiozza to make it a 110-109 game. With the Nets hanging on to a 117-116 lead, Temple’s elbow jumper put Brooklyn up 119-116 with 6.8 seconds remaining.

“The last play, we just wanted to get in the angle and I pulled behind, (Chiozza) got it to me and I just wanted to get to my spot, get to my mid-range,” said Temple. “That's a shot I feel comfortable with, step-back, going left so it went in for us to help us win that game.”

“With GT, you take the last possession, whether it was slowing Chiozza down to get into the timing of the play at the right time, GT orchestrated that,” said Vaughn. “Whether it was him coming off the screen and making the shot, GT orchestrated that. We talked about it before the game we were going to need his ability to lead us, and he stepped up and did so.”

After trailing 11-4 in the opening minutes, the Nets closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run with 3-pointers from Jamal Crawford and Dzanan Musa, with Musa’s putback basket putting Brooklyn up 40-34 after the first quarter.

They were leading 63-62 in the second quarter when Luwawu-Cabarrot, Chiozza, and Temple knocked down consecutive 3-pointers. Another triple from Temple capped off the quarter-closing 10-3 run that had the Nets up 73-65 at halftime.

At the break the Nets were shooting 43.8 percent from 3-point range — 14-of-32 — and 49.1 percent overall, and Luwawu-Cabarrot already had 17 points and Chiozza six assists.

“I think the pace we played with, the defensive mentality we had going in, honestly offensively the way we were able to move the ball, just play freely early on really told the story of the game,” said Temple. “The bench unit came in and did the exact same thing and then from there it was a matter of making plays towards the end.”

Temple finished with 19 points while making five 3-pointers and grabbing five rebounds. Chiozza had his first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 assists. Tyler Johnson and Justin Anderson each scored 11 points and Rodions Kurucs had 10.

“Just be aggressive,” said Chiozza. “Attack the paint and shoot as many good shots as you can. We said before the game, they give up a lot of threes. We knew with our size we had to get into that paint and get a lot of kickout shots, so that’s what we did and we knocked them down.”

The Nets finished up taking 57 3-pointers and making 21. They had 30 assists — the second time in their three NBA Campus games they’ve had at least 30 assists — against just seven turnovers.

“Really we talked about, and we’ll continue to talk about the ball movement; the mentality of getting off that thing — shoot it, drive it, pass it. So 30 assists again, and I think you really have to give credit to the guys of being unselfish, passing the basketball, and then trusting their teammates,” said Vaughn. “We didn’t necessarily say, ‘Caris is not playing, Joe’s not playing, we have to move the ball more.’ But I think overall as a team, we knew to be successful with these guys we had to get downhill, get to the paint, and create opportunities for others.”

Two days ago, the Nets took on Washington in a game with significant playoff implications while coming off a disappointing opening loss to Orlando. They bounced back against the Wizards, and then drew contributions from every corner of the roster in knocking off the Bucks. With the Wizards losing on Monday, Brooklyn is up eight games on Washington with five left to play and the Wizards needing to close within four games to force a play-in for the final playoff seed.

“I totally do believe in momentum and the momentum of keeping your spirit in check,” said Vaughn. “We talked about as a group the symbolism of bamboo, being extremely resilient and extremely flexible and adaptable. Tonight was another example; we had to be all of those three things with the different lineup. So overall, that concept has stayed with us and I hope it continues.”