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WELCOME TO 2020: SHORTHANDED NETS TAKE DOWN BUCKS, 119-116

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Brooklyn Nets v Milwaukee Bucks Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

It’s the year 2020. The Brooklyn Nets are facing the Milwaukee Bucks without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Nicolas Claxton, Wilson Chandler, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen.

What if I were to tell you the Nets took down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the no. 1 seed Bucks? Because they did. Final score: 119-116. With the Magic loss to the Pacers, the Nets are back in seventh, a half game ahead of Orlando and farther away from a play-in tournament with the Wizards.

Where do we begin? How about at the end?

The Nets had just four players from their opening day roster available for a duel against Milwaukee: Garrett Temple, Rodions Kurucs, Dzanan Musa and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, and yet, they found themselves up by five after Garrett Temple hit a 3-pointer, followed by two 3-pointers from TLC which put Brooklyn up 115-110 with 2:31 remaining.

TLC, their leading scorer, had fouled out and the offense was cold after nailing 14-first half 3-pointers. He finished with a career-high 26 points.

The score was 115-114, Nets, with under a minute remaining.

Following a miss, Tyler Johnson grabbed a huge offensive board and put back nets up three. Milwaukee answered and suddenly it was 117-116, Nets lead, with 30 seconds left. They brought the clock down slowly, then pursued: Chris Chiozza handed it off to Garrett Temple, who pump-faked a three, went under, and nailed the game winning mid-ranger with 6.7 seconds left.

Brooklyn did all they could on the other end. Milwaukee was confused and Jeremiah Martin, who was stellar on the defensive end all night, poked the ball loose out of Donte DiVenzo’s hands, forcing a last-second heave that wasn’t even close.

Nobody expected things to go the way they did. As a matter of fact, the Nets were 18.5 point underdogs in Las Vegas! How big of a deal was that...

As Darren Rovell of Action Network noted, somebody got rich...

And among them, apparently, was Haley O’Shaunessey of The Ringer...

And the Nets success redounded worldwide, or at least that’s what The Ringer would have us believe...

It started early.

Jamal Crawford checked into the game late in the first quarter, marking his 20th season in the NBA, while also becoming the oldest player to suit up for the Nets organization, beating out Uncle Cliffy, Clifford Robinson, who played for the Jason Kidd Nets in New Jersey.

He was a difference maker immediately: two nifty assists, a 3-pointer and then another assist to close out the first quarter on a 10-0 run — 40-34 lead for the Nets after one.

Not long after, Crawford checked out with a hamstring injury, hurting his leg on what appeared to be a simple handoff. He did not return to the game and took him a while to return to the bench as well. It’s uncertain if when he will play again. Hamstring injuries do not go away without rest.

Jacque Vaughn did say post-game he hoped to see JCrossover on the court again this season.

Not long after Crawford, Donta Hall , the rookie big man got into a little altercation with Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP. Okay, Hall tossed him to the side and out of bonds. A little lip-reading made it the funniest confrontation between a Nets big man and an MVP since Mirza Teletovic and LeBron James faced off back in January 2014.

At that point, it was 42-37 Nets and the Bucks knew they were in a fight. Brooklyn scored 73 points in the first half and led by eight at the half. They shot 14-of-32 from three and assisted on 18 of their 27 made field goals. The 14 3-pointers tied a franchise record for most 3-pointers made in any half.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot led with 17 points, while Justin Anderson chipped in 11. The half was highlighted by this monster slam from Anderson:

Credit to Jacque Vaughn and his young players, who were hitting on all cylinders while throwing in different defensive schemes to throw off the Bucks. They incorporated a 3-2 zone and even showed a matador full-court press at times.

The Nets went up by as many as 11 early in the 2nd half. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Chris Middleton were on the bench to start the second half, and it remained that way for the rest of the night. Brooklyn jumped out on a 9-0 start and gained their largest lead of the night at 11.

The rest is history, and perhaps the biggest win for the Nets this season and the biggest win for Jacque Vaughn as head coach. Vaughn is now 4-1 since replacing Kenny Atkinson back in March with wins over conference leaders Lakers and Bucks. Vaughn said even though he held out three starters, one of the Nets key tenets got them through it.

“We talked about, and will continue to talk about, the ball movement,” said the head coach. “The mentality of shoot it, drive it, pass it. Thirty assists again, you really have to give credit to the guys for being unselfish and passing the basketball and putting trust in their teammates.

“We didn’t necessarily say, ‘Caris (LeVert) is not playing, Joe (Harris) is not playing, we have to move the ball more.’ But I think overall as a team we knew to be successful we’d have to get downhill and get to the paint and create opportunities for others.”

Brooklyn matched a season-high with 21 three, tied a season-low with seven turnovers, dished 30 assists on 43 made field goals, had six players in double figures and 10 players with at least one assist.

-Luwawu-Cabarrot - career-high 26 points

-Chiozza - 10 points and a career-high 10 assists (first-career double-double)

-Temple - 19 points (5-of-11 3FG).

-Anderson (11 points), Johnson (11 points) & Kurucs (10 points) all reached double figures.

Antetokounmpo finished with 16 points. Off the bench, Kyle Korver led with 13 points.

IT’S TLC’S WORLD

The Bubble Big 3 missed this game, but isn’t it really the Bubble Big 4 with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot? In the three games so far, TLC has averaged 19.3 points, 3.3 rebounds with a shooting line of 59/52/82. In two of his three games, vs. the Magic and Bucks, he tied then surpassed his career high in points (24). LeVert is averaging a team best 25.5 and Harris 20.5.

And yes, the Nets have the 25-year-old under contract for next season. The deal is non-guaranteed till the off-season, but there are trigger dates for partial guarantees in the off-season then early next year.

POOLSIDE SKULLDUGGERY

Does it get better than this? Hard to tell, but consider this. The Bubble has its benefits. After the game, more than one Net noted that they got some helpful advice from the Rockets who beat the Bucks the other night...

—-

JAMAL CRAWFORD MAKES NETS DEBUT... BUT IT ENDS QUICKLY

After sitting in all three scrimmages and the first two regular season games, Jamal Crawford made his Nets debut, the Nets announced about two hours before tip. He checked in with a little less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter, marking his 20th season in the NBA and becoming the oldest player to suit up for the Nets. His first touch... an assist.

Unfortunately for Crawford and the Nets, he exited the game after five minutes due to a hamstring injury. He finished with five points and three assists.

Here’s what Jacque Vaughn said pregame:

“Jamal [Crawford] has been engaged with the group.. he was always locked in and engaged.”

What has it been like having a player-coach like him around?

“I love having guys who love basketball around the group. Jamal does. You can talk to him about today’s game or you can talk about a game 5 years ago... It’s been awesome having him around.”

It was also about history...

And of that group, only four have more than 20 seasons: Carter, Parrish, Willis and Garnett. The Nets also became Crawford’s ninth NBA team.

OH YE OF LITTLE FAITH, PREPARE TO BE INKED!

Two Nets fans WILL be getting tattoos as a result of the win. The Nets —and YES announcers Michael Grady and Jim Spanarkel— put the fans on notice that their promises WILL be kept...

Or as Sponge Bob might say...

For a completely different perspective, head on over to Brew Hoop, our Bucks sister site on SB Nation. They contend Bucks lost to the Long Island Nets.

***

Next up: Boston Celtics on Wednesday, 9:00pm ET.