The Nets' Dennis Schroder drives past the Bucks' Patrick Beverley...

The Nets' Dennis Schroder drives past the Bucks' Patrick Beverley during the first half of an NBA game Thursday in Milwaukee. Credit: AP/Morry Gash

MILWAUKEE — Nets interim coach Kevin Ollie said before Thursday’s game that he wanted his team to play with joy against the Bucks. It was evident at times in the second half, and they built a lead late in the fourth quarter before Milwaukeepulled away for a 115-108 win at Fiserv Forum.

The Nets (26-44) trailed 58-38 late in the second quarter but climbed back to take a 94-93 lead with 4:34 remaining on a free throw by Cam Thomas.

In the end, it was too much Damian Lillard. He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and finished his 30-point, 12-assist night with a 28-foot three-pointer that put the Bucks (45-24) ahead by 10 with 41 seconds remaining.

The Nets lost their fifth consecutive game, tying their longest losing streak this season. While Ollie was critical of 11 first-half turnovers, it didn’t dampen his satisfaction with how his team fought.

“I just loved how they were competing, just playing for one another,” he said. “We were still missing shots, making shots, we were just getting after it, and that’s fun basketball to watch.”

The Nets remained 4 1⁄2 games behind the 10th-place Hawks for the Eastern Conference’s final play-in tournament spot.

Perhaps the biggest surprise Thursday was that the Nets gave rookie Noah Clowney extended minutes for the first time in a month. Clowney, the Nets’ first-round pick last year, said he was told by Ollie to “stay ready” just before the game.

He entered in the first quarter instead of Day’Ron Sharpe, who did not play after grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds on Tuesday. Clowney had five points and four rebounds in 14 minutes, his most since Feb. 8, and was on the floor in the fourth quarter as the Nets opened with a 14-4 run to trail 85-83.

“I think it’d be nerves when you first get in because you don’t want to mess up,” Clowney said. “But I mean, it’s basketball at the end of the day. You do what you know to do, take in coverages, do what you’re supposed to do.”

Ollie explained his decision by saying he “just wanted to see him in a game like this and play him.” He didn’t say why Sharpe didn’t play but was pleased with Clowney showing confidence and being physical against Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez.

The Nets also turned things around after a 19-point first quarter. Mikal Bridges had 13 of his 24 points in the third quarter as the Nets cut their deficit to six.

Cam Johnson’s three-pointer in the fourth gave the Nets an 88-87 lead, their first since the first quarter. Thomas had nine points in the period and made a pair of free throws to tie the score at 96 with 4:13 left.

But Antetokounmpo, who missed the previous two games, scored on a three-point play to put the Bucks ahead. They never trailed again and Antetokounmpo finished with 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists.

Bridges hit six three-pointers, the fourth game this season in which he’s had at least that many. Thomas scored 21 points, his seventh consecutive game with at least 20.

Nic Claxton, who arrived in Milwaukee after shootaround because of illness, had 22 points and nine rebounds.

“Just can’t get down early. That’s pretty much it,” Bridges said.

Finney-Smith out. Dorian Finney-Smith was out with left ankle soreness and did not travel to Milwaukee. It’s the same injury that got him listed on the injury report the previous two games, although he was cleared to play.

Ollie said Finney-Smith received an injection to deal with inflammation in the ankle. He’ll be re-evaluated Friday to determine his status for Saturday against the Knicks.
Johnson started in Finney-Smith’s place and had 17 points, including four three-pointers, along with eight rebounds.

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