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Brooklyn Nets dominate late, defeat Milwaukee Bucks 97-94

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

On the day after Christmas, the Nets dropped a miserable game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Deron Williams was out, and C.J. Watson shot 2-12 in his place. Brook Lopez had a good game, with 21 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough and the Nets went down by 15.

The next day, things changed.

Avery Johnson was relieved of his head coaching duties, and the team responded by winning 12 of their next 14 games.

Tonight, on the eve of the trade deadline, more change loomed on the horizon - and for three quarters things looked as disheartening as they did on that December night - but the difference this time was the play of the bench.

The starters shot a dismal 31%, but the unit known as the "Bench Mob" picked them up in a big way, shooting a sizzling 53% and erasing a 14 point second half Bucks lead - blowing by them and dominating the 9th period these teams played in the past 27 hours.

The Nets entered the final frame trailing 76-68. They hadn't been closer than 5 since Milwaukee led 12-8 in the 1st quarter. But they stifled the Bucks completely during a blistering 21-5 run to start the quarter.

Then things took another turn. With 3 minutes to go and Larry Sanders at the line, Keith Bogans was called for a technical foul - which coach P.J. Carlesimo protested vehemently by saying that whatever Bogans said was directed at him. Sanders made two of the three free throws to cut the Nets' lead to 5.

The Nets seemed to pull out of reach again on five straight points by Williams, but the Bucks then scored four straight as Sanders blocked Williams, scored on an oop from Brandon Jennings, Williams traveled, and Jennings flew down the left block for a lay in to cut it to two.

Then Watson made the most important shot of the game - a tough, clutch paint attack around Jennings, shielding off Sanders in the paint with his body to lay it in and make it a two possession game again.

And the Nets would need every point. After Jennings scored again, Williams missed 1 of 2 down the other end to give the Bucks one final shot to tie. Monta Ellis received the ball in the left corner and launched a three. It fell short, but Williams was whistled for a foul - sending Ellis to the line for three.

Ellis missed the first two, missed the third intentionally, and Gerald Wallace corralled the rebound to seal the win for Brooklyn.

Watson was perhaps the only Net to be strong throughout the game. He had 17 points on 7-11 shooting, 6 assists and 3 steals in just under 29 minutes. Andray Blatche was a force late, going 5-9 from the floor and grabbing 12 big rebounds. MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Bogans - who sank an enormous three - were all instrumental in the comeback as well. They picked up Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, who both looked fatigued and combined to shoot 6-27.

Williams had his best game in a while with 23 points and 8 assists, with - outside of his potentially disastrous foul - some excellent play late to help push his team over the finish line.

Jennings was a monster again for the Bucks, torching Brooklyn for the second straight night with 31 points on 12-18 shooting, adding 11 assists, and almost single-handedly bringing the Bucks back to victory. Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova both had double-doubles, while Sanders also contributed 5 blocks.

The win takes the Nets to 33-22, 4th in the East, 6 games behind the streaking Miami Heat but only one game behind the flailing Knicks for the Atlantic Division lead. Since the Knicks manhandled the Nets just before Christmas, the Nets are 20-10 while the Knicks are at .500, 13-13. The Bucks drop below .500 to 26-27, 8th in the East and now just 3.5 games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for the final playoff spot.