Cam Thomas of the Nets shoots over Khris Middleton of...

Cam Thomas of the Nets shoots over Khris Middleton of the Bucks at Barclays Center on Monday. Credit: Errol Anderson

At shootaround Monday, Cam Thomas looked forward to testing himself against Bucks guard Damian Lillard. It was less personal, more measuring stick for Thomas who entered the game 12th in the NBA in scoring
Little did the Nets guard know he’d also measure himself against Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two traded baskets late in the fourth quarter. The young scorer challenging the elite closer nearly shot for shot.
Antetokounmpo, however, had the final say as the Nets lost, 129-125, at Barclays Center. He had two blocks in the final 30 seconds, with his first stopping a tying layup by Dorian Finney-Smith.
Finney-Smith caught an outlet pass from Ben Simmons and tried to pump fake past Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. But Antetokounmpo stayed disciplined and rose for the block and the rebound.
On the Nets’ next possession, Thomas drove to the basket and was met by Antetokounmpo, who blocked the shot. Both blocks came after Antetokoumpo put the Bucks (4-2) up 125-123 on a layup with 1:11 remaining.
“You definitely give him credit on both ends of the floor. His shotmaking at the end of the game. Give them credit making shots,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “But then also [him] being at the rim on Cam’s layup, on Doe’s layup. If we can get shots at the rim at the end of the game? Pretty good.”
Thomas’ 45 points, two shy of his career high, continued his torrid scoring this season. It wasn’t just a season high in scoring, but his fifth career game with at least 40 points. It was also his fourth game this season with at least 30 points.
He also made six three-pointers and had 15 fourth-quarter points. Thomas started a 12-0 Nets run in the fourth with a three-point play and ended it with a putback.
Vaughn said the play where Thomas was blocked was designed for him, further showing the team’s trust in the third-year guard
“Those are moments you train for growing up, you want to take those last shots in the NBA,” Thomas said. “Everybody dreams of it. So I’m just glad that our players and obviously our coaches have trust in me to take that shot.”
Antetokounmpo had 36 points and 12 rebounds. He scored 13 points in the final period to hold off both Thomas and Mikal Bridges, who had 31 points. For the Nets (3-4), it was another painful, close loss as they remain winless at home.
“We got some good looks but that’s who he is,” Bridges said of Antetokounmpo. “That’s what makes it tough. His length and him being in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. Being weak side and being at the rim just causes a lot of trouble."
The loss was the fifth game out of seven this season decided by five points or fewer. They won two on the road but have now lost two at home.
It also spoiled the return of Ben Simmons, who had a season-high 15 rebounds after not playing Saturday due to injury maintenance. Lonnie Walker IV added 19 points off the bench.
Thomas even had a moment to one-up Lillard, who scored 21 points. In the third quarter, he took a 30-foot three-pointer, a shot Lillard often takes and makes, and made it with the Bucks guard guarding him.
But Lillard got the last word with three free throws in the final 30 seconds. It was something Thomas, Bridges and the Nets couldn’t do like they did closing out the Heat and Bulls last week.
“That fourth quarter just got to be everybody locked in and doing everything right. Help rebound, be in the right shifts,” Bridges said. “It’s just that fourth quarter. Learn now. Just got to get better.”

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