NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — With roughly six weeks left in the season, the Milwaukee Bucks are starting to get a sniff of the playoffs, and being tired isn’t slowing them down.
Brandon Jennings had 34 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks posted their third straight win, 105-99 over the New Jersey Nets on Monday night.
Coupled with Chicago’s win over the slumping Knicks, the Bucks moved into a tie with New York for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We had a slow first half, I think just from being tired, but then we just came together as a unit” said Jennings after the Bucks won on consecutive nights. “This is an important win for us. Right now, we’re trying to get to the eighth or seventh spot. That’s our main focus, just trying to win basketball games.”
The Bucks won this one because they had a solid team effort on a night that conference player of the week Ersan Ilyasova was limited to four points and three rebounds because of foul trouble and exhaustion after playing 44 minutes the previous night.
Drew Gooden added 23 points, eight rebounds and a season-high seven assists as the Bucks rallied from an early 12-point deficit to beat New Jersey for the 10th straight time. Beno Udrih added 15 points and seven assists and fellow reserve Mike Dunleavy had 15 points, including a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:30 to go that opened a 10-point lead.
“We got it done, that’s the most important thing,” Dunleavy said. “We got it done and a win is a win. We will take it and go back home. Offensively, if we share the ball, we have a lot of guys that can pass, score and shoot. If we keep sharing it, then it will work for us.”
Kris Humphries had a career-high 31 points and 18 rebounds for New Jersey, which lost its second straight without point guard Deron Williams. Jordan Farmar added 17 points and seven assists, while Anthony Morrow also scored 17.
“We were in control of the game until the fourth,” said Humphries, who finished 11 of 15 from the field. “They play good basketball. They move the ball. They have multiple guys with high assist totals. Trap them, they swing for an easy 3. In the fourth quarter, they scored probably every way you can score — back cut, duck in, 3-pointer, pull-up J, everything. They played well as well.”
Milwaukee didn’t have a lead in the opening 36 minutes, but closed the third quarter with a 9-0 run to tie the score at 73. The Bucks opened the fourth with a 14-7 spurt that gave them an 87-80 lead with 7:36 to go.
Jennings, who was 6 of 11 from long range, hit two 3s to open the fourth quarter and capped the run, working a great give-and-go with Gooden for a layup.
The Nets got within three points twice, but Dunleavy scored on a goaltending call against Humphries with 6:22 to go and Jennings made his final 3 with 4:01 to go to start a 7-2 run that built the lead to eight points.
“Our energy was up all night, but when we had a chance to win the game, they got going in the fourth quarter,” Nets rookie guard MarShon Brooks said. “They kept on scoring late in the third and early in the fourth, and we never got the stop that we needed.”
Humphries had a great opening half, scoring 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting, while grabbing 10 rebounds in helping New Jersey take a 54-47 lead. Just as important, the power forward forced Ilyasova to pick up two quick fouls and head to the bench.
Ilyasova spent most of the second half on the bench. In his last game against New Jersey he had career highs of 29 points and 25 rebounds.
“He played really well last time,” Humphries said of Ilyasova. “I just wanted to make sure he didn’t come out and get momentum and have that kind of a night.”
They didn’t need him this time.
“I think we have good chemistry on the team,” said Ilyasova. “We know who the main guys are, and everybody each night gets the (opportunity) to do something positive for the team.”
NOTES: Defensive end Justin Tuck and running back Ahmad Bradshaw of the Super Bowl champion Giants were at the game. … Jennings’ 34 points were a season high by a Nets opponent. ….Referee Steven Anderson showed a short fuse hitting Dunleavy with a technical on a play in which the veteran deflected a Nets’ pass off the backboard causing a turnover. … Milwaukee had 32 assists on its 43 baskets. … Humphries’ previous high was 25 points earlier this year. His career best for rebounds is 19. …Bucks guard Carlos Delfino and coach Scott Skiles didn’t arrive at the game until an hour before the tipoff because their bus was stuck in New York City traffic. Delfino scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)