Many presumed the Nets were throwing in the towel against Milwaukee. Turns out they had more fight than expected, pulling off not only the biggest upset of the NBA restart, but one of the biggest in the last 30 years.
Facing the winningest team in the league – and without arguably their top nine rotation players – Brooklyn battled to a feisty 119-116 win over the 54-win Bucks Tuesday at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had a career-high 26 points, while Garrett Temple added 19 and the dagger jumper to seal it with six seconds left.
Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Dinwiddie never even made it to the Orlando bubble due to injuries and coronavirus-related concerns. Caris LeVert (thigh), Joe Harris (back) and Jarrett Allen (rest) were all out of the lineup after having combined for 114 minutes and 83 points in Sunday’s win over Washington — which essentially clinched the Nets a trip to the postseason.
It left Milwaukee as 19-point favorites and Brooklyn as the biggest underdog all season. But the players left had no intention of raising the white flag. They weren’t capitulating — they were competing, and pulled off the biggest NBA upset against the spread since 1993 — Mavericks +19.5 over the Supersonics — according to ESPN.
There was Luwawu-Cabarrot topping Friday’s career-high by 18 points in his first-ever Nets start, fouling out after giving every drop of sweat available, and rookie Donta Hall disrespectfully tossing Giannis Antetokounmpo to the ground and getting into it with the Bucks superstar.
The Bucks have the NBA’s top defense, but allow the most 3-point makes and attempts. The Nets took 57 – just two short of their team record – and hit 21.
After Brooklyn fell behind 11-4 out of the gate, they stormed right back. They closed the first quarter with ten unanswered points, capped by Dzanan Musa’s buzzer-beating putback for a 40-34 lead.
The Nets were forced to play a ton of zone due to their Hobbit-esque stature, but they were still the aggressors early.
Jamal Crawford gave them a boost with five points in five minutes before departing with a left hamstring injury. His bucket put the Nets ahead 42-37.
When Hall and Antetokounmpo grappled for a rebound moments later, Hall tossed the Bucks star to the ground. The Greek Freak jumped up and yelled “watch out” at Hall. When the two got separated, the reigning MVP turned to the referee restraining him and appear to say to Hall, “I’m gonna f–k him up.’”
Both players got double fouls, but with no technicals or flagrants. While it seemed to fire up the Bucks, the Nets held on.
Brooklyn took an eight-point lead into halftime, and neither Antetokounmpo nor Khris Middleton played after the break for Milwaukee.
The Nets led 100-90 before the Bucks responded with a 17-4 run, capped by DJ Wilson’s left corner 3. That put Milwaukee ahead 107-104 – their first lead since 34-32 – and sent the Nets scurrying into a timeout with 5:29 left.
They’d missed 16 of 20 from behind the arc at that points before Temple hit from deep to knot it. Brooklyn led 115-114 after Kyle Korver’s corner shot was ruled a long two.
Temple’s quick hands forced a jump ball, and Tyler Johnson’s offensive rebound and putback made it 117-114
Then Temple iced it, his jumper making it 119-16 with :06 left. When Jeremiah Martin’s quick hands pestered Donte DiVincenzo into losing the ball, it made it official.