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Marcus Thornton comes off bench, sparking Nets over Bucks

Nets' Marcus Thornton, right, and teammate Paul Pierce

Nets' Marcus Thornton, right, and teammate Paul Pierce celebrate Thornton's 3-point basket against the Milwaukee Bucks in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 1, 2014, in Milwaukee. Credit: AP / Jeffrey Phelps

MILWAUKEE -- It's not as if they had their bus parked directly by the locker-room door or backed up so close to the bench that they could have boarded it at a moment's notice.

But the Nets could've been in that summer-school mode, so road-weary after spending the last 12 days away from home and zipping across the country that they would've looked past the lowly Bucks.

But for once, they didn't get stuck in that bear trap.

Behind a 25-point outburst by reserve Marcus Thornton, the Nets closed their six-game road trip with a 4-2 record by upending Milwaukee, 107-98, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center Saturday night. (Their final game before the All-Star break also was on the road, making it seven straight away from Barclays Center.)

"It was a good win for us, man," Deron Williams said. "A lot of times, long trips like this, you've been on the road for a couple of weeks, you have letdowns. And so that didn't happen to us tonight. We were able to get a big victory and make this road trip even better."

Thornton finally seems to be over that bad batch of lobster mac and cheese that gave him food poisoning last week. He turned in what easily was his best game since the Nets (28-29) dealt Reggie Evans and Jason Terry for him the day before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. He swished his first four shots of the night, canned 8 of 13 attempts overall and was 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.

His straightaway three-pointer with 2:47 to play gave the Nets a 100-91 edge, essentially putting the game out of reach and ensuring that the Nets didn't suffer an embarrassing loss to the Bucks (11-47). The Nets, who were without Kevin Garnett because of back spasms, outscored Milwaukee's bench 54-48.

"I was open a lot, so I just tried to step up and make the shots," Thornton said. "Going into the game, their bench produces a lot of their points and we had to match their bench, so that was our whole thing -- [to have] the bench outplay their bench, and that's what I tried to do."

Thornton remained in the game in the fourth quarter, playing all 12 minutes, shooting 4-for-8 and scoring 12 big points. In Thornton's third game with the team after that bout with sickness, Jason Kidd showed faith in the 25-year-old, keeping him out there in crunch time and allowing Williams and Joe Johnson to sit for the better part of the quarter.

Williams banged his right wrist in the first half and scored only two of his 15 points after the break.

Kidd threw Thornton right into the late-game fire, trusting him to get the job done.

"Well, we've got to," Kidd said. "I wanted to find out down the stretch defensively can guys count on him, and then offensively can we count on him. We know he can shoot the ball and put the ball in the basket. But coming down the stretch, can he make plays, and this was a great opportunity to see that after a long trip. It gives guys like D-Will and Joe a chance to breathe and not bring those guys back to finish the game."

No doubt, that lengthy plane ride home overnight had to feel all the much better for the Nets, knowing they turned it around after a 44-point drubbing in Portland Wednesday.

"It is very important to win," Andrei Kirilenko said. "Don't look at the Bucks' record. They didn't have a great season, but it's all about us. I think we did a good job of recovering after the loss in Portland, getting on the right track and winning those two games and coming back with a good record, 4-2. So that's a pretty good result, but we can't relax right now. We've got Chicago coming to town Monday so we need to be ready.

New York Sports