The Brooklyn Nets’ quest to clinch a third straight playoff appearance will have to wait at least another day.
The Nets dropped a 96-73 decision to the Bucks in Milwaukee. The defeat, combined with the Celtics win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, drops the Nets (37-43) into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, a full game behind the Celtics (38-42).
The race got even tighter with the Indiana Pacers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pacers (37-43) have identical records but Brooklyn owns the tiebreaker over Indiana.
The Nets host the Chicago Bulls Monday night in Barclays Center. The Pacers host the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.
The Nets final game of the season is Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic in the basketball cathedral on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. The playoff berth could be decided that night.
If the Nets win both of their remaining games, they’re in the playoffs for a third straight year, regardless of what the Pacers do. Any combination of a Nets win and a Pacers loss, two Nets losses and two Pacers losses, or two Nets wins and two Pacers wins, also clinches the berth for Brooklyn.
"We have two games we must win,’’ swingman Joe Johnson told reporters in Milwaukee after the game. “That's how we got to approach it."
KEY STRETCH: The Nets trailed the Bucks 43-41 at halftime and were poised to take the game to the wire. But Milwaukee outscored the Nets 30-18 in the third quarter.
NETS GAINS: Brook Lopez posted his 17th double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Lopez also moved into fourth place on the Nets career scoring list.
TALK: "We have to forget about this one," forward Thaddeus Young said. "We can't even think about the next two games, we have to focus on this next one against Chicago. It's as simple as that."