Bucks hold off Nets, 97-88

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NEW YORK (AP) – Brandon Jennings had heard all the talk about how Brooklyn’s backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson was considered one of the best in the league.

Jennings and his backcourt mate Monta Ellis were aware of the height advantage Williams and Johnson had on them, but the Milwaukee Bucks’ duo showed they belong in the conversation, too.

Jennings scored 26 points and Ellis added 24 as Milwaukee withstood Brooklyn’s fourth-quarter rally and beat the Nets 97-88 Sunday night.

“It wasnt a competition or anything like that,” said Jennings, who also had seven assists and six rebounds. “We knew they had height advantage … so we wanted to run tonight and use more of your speed.”

Ellis, who’s struggled with his shot in the early part of this season and who came into the game shooting a career-low 38.9 percent from the field, said he didn’t pay any mind to the talk about the Nets’ backcourt.

” I never thought about it,” Ellis said. “It was just another game. It just happened me (and Jennings) came out wanting to play hard. We came out with nice energy, got a great lead. We made our run, they made their run but we were able to hold them off and get a win.”

Jennings and Ellis outscored Williams and Johnson 50-24 and managed to make some key plays in the final minutes to seal the victory.

Marquis Daniels had 13 points for the Bucks and Ersan Ilyasova added 10 as Milwaukee won its second straight. The Bucks have beaten the Nets 12 straight times dating back to March 30, 2009.

Milwaukee led by 29 points with 6:59 left in the third quarter but Brookyln got within six after Williams found an open Kris Humphries, who came off the bench for the first time this season, for an uncontested dunk.

Jennings then found Ellis for a layup to make it 87-79 before the Nets called a timeout with 2:24 left in regulation. On the ensuing play, Gerald Wallace lost his balance and the ball, Jennings scooped up the loose ball and connected with Larry Sanders for reverse layup to extend the Bucks’ lead to 10 points.

MarShon Brooks, who scored 14 points off the bench for the Nets, then hit a 3-pointer to bring the Nets within seven but Marquis Daniels hit a 3-pointer to make it 92-82 and pretty much put the game out of reach.

Luc Mbah a Moute’s 21-foot jumper made it 94-84. The Nets then called a timeout and Williams drove to the basket to cut the lead to 94-86. Brooks then fouled Ellis, who hit a pair of free throws.

The Nets looked like they were on their way to snapping out their losing streak, taking an 11-2 lead in the first quarter before Skiles called a timeout to settle his team down with 8:46 remaining. It apparently worked as the Bucks outscored Brooklyn 23-7.

“Other than the initial start of the game, we played pretty well and Brookyln didn’t,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “The Nets missed shots they normally wouldn’t and we took advantage of it. Brooklyn obvioulsy made it a game late. . Overall, it was a great win for us. It’s the nature of our team; when Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are playing well, we usually win.”

Williams had 18 points and eight assists and Wallace added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the struggling Nets, losers of four straight.

With team owner Mikhail Prokhorov in attendance, the Nets’ offense looked stagnant for the most part of the game’s first three quarters before making the late run. During one stretch in the second quarter, in which they were trailing by 10 points, Brooklyn offered nothing but a 3-second violation, a shot clock violation, a turnover by Andray Blatche as the Nets came off a timeout, a turnover by Humphries and another 3-second violation, all in succession.

Johnson, who scored six points on just 2-for-8 shooting, played the first three minutes of the third quarter before Nets coach Avery Johnson pulled him out in favor of Brooks.

Avery Johnson liked the way the Nets battled back but wasn’t thrilled with the way the Nets played in the first half.

The Milwaukee defense held the Nets to 13-of-47 shooting in the first half (27.7 percent) and limited them to only five made baskets on 21 attempts in the second quarter with eight turnovers.

“We had a really bad second quarter and didn’t take care of the balll. We had too many turnovers and missed shots. We can’t play one half and beat anybody. I’m proud of the effort in the second half but I’m not proud of the game overall,” Avery Johnson said.

The Nets were without Brook Lopez, who was out again due to a mild sprained right foot and has now missed his last five games. The Nets are 1-4 without their starting center.

With a big game coming up Tuesday night at home against the New York Knicks, whom they beat last week in the teams’ first intracity meeting, Williams hopes that the Nets don’t think they can only win with Lopez on the floor.

“We definitely want him back but we don’t want to think we can’t win without him. That’s never how you should come into a game thinking because you dont have one or two players, this guy or that guy, that you dont have a chance to win,” Williams said.

Johnson tried a new lineup Sunday, benching Humphries in place of Reggie Evans. The Nets’ coach was looking for something different after his team had struggled recently in the first quarter of their games.

Evans and Blatche, who combined for 16 points and 15 rebounds, came into the game as Brooklyn’s most productive tandem in their lineup with a plus-11.3 differential between offensive and defensive efficiency.

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