Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Milwaukee Bucks picked up a win in their first trip to Brooklyn to face the new-look Nets, holding off a late rally after leading by as many as 29 in the second half. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis outplayed the Nets' Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in a matchup of high-profile backcourts, helping the Bucks move back above .500.
Milwaukee's 11-game winning streak against the Nets sure seemed irrelevant considering that franchise's summer makeover, but the first half of the Bucks' first visit to Brooklyn looked an awful lot like the Nets of old. Greatly improved intensity in the second half forced the Bucks to buckle down late before they could come away with a 97-88 victory, but it won't take too much of the luster off the Bucks' fifth road win of the season. Milwaukee got an efficient 50 points out of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, who thoroughly outplayed their bigger Brooklyn counterparts Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
Jennings continued his Northeastern excellence (26 pts, 8/19 fg, 7 ast, 6 rebs, 5 stl, 2 to), turning in another strong performance in the City that Never Sleeps. Monta Ellis' uncommonly efficient shooting night (24 pts, 8/13 fg, 5 ast, 6 to) similarly blew away that of Joe Johnson in another of the game's key matchups, as Johnson needed until early in the fourth quarter to hit his first shot and finished just 2/8 from the field for six points. The Nets just couldn't make up for that disparity in the end, despite a big 16-point, 16-rebound performance from Gerald Wallace and 14 points from MarShon Brooks off the bench.
Milwaukee dominated the first half behind Jennings' scoring and Brooklyn's complete offensive ineptitude. The Nets shot under 28% in the first 24 minutes, failing to even take advantage of solid offensive rebounding. The Bucks held a 17-point advantage that ballooned to 29 in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter, a stretch in which Milwaukee recorded four steals and got 13 points combined from Jennings and Ellis. But a lapse in intensity (which seemed to coincide with the arrival of Joel Przybilla on the court) kick-started a Nets comeback that chipped away at the lead as the game rolled into the fourth quarter.
The final 12 minutes felt like an extended Nets run (Brooklyn outscored Milwaukee 33-22 in the final frame) stymied only by a few key Bucks buckets. A corner three from Jennings killed a 10-2 run. A slashing layup by Monta Ellis halted a 13-3 run. Shockingly, jumpers from Marquis Daniels and Luc Mbah a Moute finally put the Nets away.
Milwaukee played a small-ish lineup for much of the game after Ekpe Udoh left with an apparent wrist injury (x-rays were negative). The Bucks got plenty of highlight defense from Larry Sanders (4 blocks, including a straightaway rejection that ignited a fastbreak) and the guard combo (8 of the Bucks' 14 steals), allowing the Bucks to push the tempo and get into their offense before Brooklyn had a chance to organize themselves.