A dash to a long shot playoff berth became a marathon for the Nets Friday night, and they barely staggered ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks at the Barclays Center finish line.
Brook Lopez led six Nets scores in double figures with 32 points and they outlasted the Bucks, 129-127 in triple overtime.
Thaddeus Young (24 points), Joe Johnson (20), Bojan Bogdanovic (17) Alan Anderson (13) and Jarrett Jack (12).
Khris Middleton had a team-high 29 points, eight rebounds, six assists for the Bucks. He also played a game-high 55 minutes. Giannis Antetokounmpo added 23 points and 14 rebounds. Zaza Pachulia had 22 points and 21 rebounds in the loss.
Bogdanovic led the Nets' bench with 17 points. Brooklyn's subs scored a combined 49 points. The Bucks' bench scored just 14 of their team's points. The Bucks outrebounded Brooklyn, 81-53.
It was no secret that last night's against the Bucks and the four to follow are pivotal to the Nets' playoff hopes. It was fitting, then, that the frenzied final minutes of regulation and overtime be so mercurial.
The Nets (28-39) overcame a 14-point third quarter deficit in a spirited fourth-quarter display, but despite having momentum on their side after taking a 98-94 lead with 4:08 left, they allowed the Bucks (34-35) to score five straight, highlighted by Ilyasova's three with three minutes left (good for the lead) and Pachulia's tip shot with 2:22 to go for the 101-98 advantage.
Johnson's left-wing trey for the Nets sent the game to the first overtime.
The comeback was a turn of events few saw coming, especially after Ilyasova's three with 7:04 left in the third gave the Bucks a 79-65 lead. Despite a four-game losing streak, the Bucks came into the game seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference and the Nets, who had lost six of their last eight, were punchless in the first half, with a stark inability the maneuver the Bucks' size advantage.
But Anderson nailed a trey second 17 seconds into the fourth quarter and Jefferson made back-to-back free throws to tie the game at 84, as the Nets showed pep that had been lacking for most of the three quarters.
The Bucks eventually took a 94-88 lead on Antetokounmpo's dunk with 6:39 to go, but a three from Young, and Mason Plumlee's coast-to-coast finger roll (over the head of big brother Miles) drew the Nets to within one with 5:45 to go. Jack and Young hit back-to-back layups for the 97-94 lead and Bogdanovic's free throw gave the Nets their biggest lead of the night before the Bucks' resurgence.