MILWAUKEE — Coming off a 21-win season, the Nets aren’t exactly the kind of team that can beat you with one hand tied behind its back. But in essence, that’s what they tried to do while playing without franchise center Brook Lopez against the Bucks on Saturday night at GMO Bradley Center.
Lopez stayed home to rest as a result of an organizational decision, yet the Nets put together a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback for the third time in three games this season. They overcame a nine-point deficit in the period and tied the score on a three-pointer by Bojan Bogdanovic with 11.6 seconds left.
But the miracle finish fell in the direction of the Bucks, who pulled out a 110-108 victory when Jabari Parker’s layup attempt was blocked by Justin Hamilton — who started in place of Lopez — and tipped in at the buzzer by John Henson. It was a tough ending for a Nets team that showed serious fortitude while playing for the third time in four nights.
“We know what Brook means for us on this team,” said Bogdanovic, who stepped up to lead the Nets with 26 points and added eight rebounds and a strong defensive effort. “He’s maybe the only one we can give the ball on the low post. He averaged 20 points the last couple of seasons, so he’s our best player, and we missed him a lot tonight.
“But on the other hand, we did a great job without him, especially on a back-to-back when many guys are tired. We played great defense tonight, and the last play was good defense. Justin helped block his shot. It was good.”
Hamilton suffered through a six-point night, shooting 2-for-7, but made two huge plays under pressure down the stretch. Coming out of a timeout, he banged home a three-pointer with 1:53 left on a play designed for him to cut the Nets’ deficit to 106-102. Moments later, a steal by Jeremy Lin led to a foul shot by Sean Kilpatrick that made it a one-possession game at 108-105. That set up the dramatic tying shot by Bogdanovic.
But there was too much time left on the clock. When Parker drove to the basket, Hamilton left Henson to help and got a hand on the ball, which bounced at the back of the rim until Henson arrived.
“I went over to help and was able to block the shot,” Hamilton said. “Credit to Henson. He made an amazing tip. I turned around, and the ball was rolling in. We did our team [defensive] principles, and it worked out. It was just a good tip.”
Kilpatrick added 15 points for the Nets. Trevor Booker totaled 14 points and 14 rebounds and Luis Scola had 14 points and eight assists. Lin had 12 points and 10 assists but shot 4-for-16.
Rashad Vaughn topped the Bucks with 22 points, and they got 21 points and 11 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson acknowledged that his team missed the inside presence of Lopez, who is following a protocol established by the organization’s “performance team,” but he was proud of how his players seized their opportunity.
“It shows some character,” Atkinson said. “I’m proud of our resiliency. I just wish we shot a little bit better. At the end, we had a chance to win the game.”