Nets rally from down 22, fall short in loss to Bucks

Stars or no stars, the Nets remain one of the more resilient teams in all of basketball.

That much became clear as they clawed back from down 22 to make it a tight game down the stretch before the Bucks pulled away for a 118-113 victory over the Nets in Milwaukee.

And it marked the fourth time in the aftermath of the trades that sent Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out West that the Nets have erased a significant double-digit deficit against a quality opponent.

The Nets set a new record for largest comeback of this season when they erased the Celtics’ 28-point advantage to secure a 115-105 victory on the road in Boston on March 3.

They came back from down 18 to lose in Atlanta on Trae Young’s buzzer-beating, game-winning floater on Feb 26.

And in the hours that followed the Durant deal on the night of the Feb. 9 trade deadline, the Nets erased a 13-point deficit to defeat Chicago Bulls, 116-105.

Then came Thursday.

The Bucks put all their starters on the floor minus their MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was a late scratch due to right hand soreness. Milwaukee ran a veteran laden lineup against the Nets, who — in the first game of a back-to-back — rested Spencer Dinwiddie and sat Nic Claxton (right thumb sprain/left Achilles tendinopathy), Cam Johnson (right knee soreness) and Royce O’Neale (left knee soreness). Ben Simmons (left knee/back soreness) missed his eighth straight game since the All-Star break, and Mikal Bridges didn’t see the floor after playing the entire opening period, another sign the Nets were rationing out minutes sparingly ahead of Friday’s second game of a back-to-back in Minnesota against the Timberwolves.

Resilience has become a through line for a Nets team that once relied on their former offensive superstars. Against a Bucks team that started former All-Stars Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and ex-Net Brook Lopez alongside Bobby Portis and Grayson Allen, the Nets — who entered the night heavy underdogs — made it a one-possession game in the late minutes of the fourth quarter.

And give credit to the Nets’ bench: 98 points from the second and third units is a new franchise record, and Cam Thomas led the charge with 21 points on a flurry of second-half buckets. Patty Mills added 23 more points off the bench and rookie Dru Smith scored a career-high 17 points.

Lopez, the ex-Nets star center, registered a career-high nine blocks to go with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Portis shot 11-of-15 from the field for 28 points and 13 rebounds in Antetokounmpo’s absence, and Holiday finished with 11 points and seven assists.

The Nets now advance to their third game in a five-game road trip against Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves on Friday. They will travel to Denver for a matchup against the reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Sunday before ending their trip in Oklahoma City against the Thunder on Tuesday.


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