Poor shooting dooms Bucks in loss to Nets
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Richard Jefferson’s dream return to New Jersey might have gone something like this: “Jefferson in the corner for three, Bucks win.”
But nothing like that happened Tuesday night at the Izod Center, where the New Jersey Nets spoiled the night for Jefferson and his new team, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Instead, Nets shooting guard Vince Carter produced the fifth triple-double of his career and rookie center Brook Lopez contributed a double-double in the Nets’ wire-to-wire, 99-85 victory.
Carter had 15 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, and the 7-foot Lopez contributed a team-high 22 points and 12 rebounds.
The Bucks misfired repeatedly, shooting just 36.5 percent, and never led as the Nets (22-27) pulled within one-half game of Milwaukee (24-28) in the chase for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff position.
“As far as being here, it was good to see all the fans in New Jersey who always showed me a lot of respect, even when I was first coming into this league,” Jefferson said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t do enough and we didn’t do enough to come away with the win.
“That would have been great.”
Jefferson scored a game-high 27 points but was unhappy that he was just 10 for 16 at the free-throw line. He added six rebounds and three assists while playing nearly the entire game (47 minutes).
The Bucks missed their first seven shots and fell behind by seven points after the opening quarter, an indicator of the type of night it was going to be.
Forward Charlie Villanueva, who averaged 20.2 points during January, was limited to 11 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Ramon Sessions had 19 points, but shot 5 for 17.
“I was just saying, ’There was a lid on the basket,’ “ Villanueva said. “I thought we played well on defense, but we couldn’t make a basket. There are going to be certain nights like that.”
Bucks coach Scott Skiles didn’t fault his team’s effort but pointed to the play of the two Nets rookies, Lopez and forward Ryan Anderson, as being particularly damaging. Anderson, starting in place of the injured Bobby Simmons, had 19 points and seven rebounds. Anderson hit three of five shots from beyond the three-point line.
“Nothing against Anderson, but I never thought I would say we got manhandled by him,” Skiles said. “We just couldn’t keep him off the glass. We tried several guys there; we just didn’t have an answer.”
Nets point guard and Milwaukee native Devin Harris, recently named to his first all-star team, added 19 points and seven assists, and Keyon Dooling scored 18 and hit 5 of 6 three-point attempts.
The Bucks trailed at halftime, 45-37, and were down, 74-63 entering the fourth quarter.
Backup center Dan Gadzuric scored five points in a 7-0 run that brought the Bucks within 74-70, and they had a chance to cut the deficit to two but Charlie Bell missed a jumper.
Then came the back-breaker, a four-point play by Dooling after New Jersey had gone scoreless in the first 4-plus minutes of the final quarter. Carter found Dooling open beyond the three-point arc, and Dooling drained the shot and was fouled by Luke Ridnour.
Dooling’s free throw made it 78-70 with 7:16 left, and Carter and Lopez took over from there.
“We went small and went with Richard at the 4 (power forward) and went with Danny,” Skiles said. “It seemed to work for a period of time, and we played pretty well right there.
“Fouling the three-point shooter, that hurt. But we missed too many easy shots tonight. Balls coming off the glass, a couple balls hit the floor and we didn’t get them.
“You have a small margin of error when you’re short-handed, and several of the plays we needed to make to swing the momentum of the game, we weren’t able to make.”
The Bucks played without center Andrew Bogut, who stayed home to have more tests on his ailing back. Milwaukee dropped to 2-3 since a season-ending knee injury suffered by star guard Michael Redd on Jan. 24, with all three losses coming when Bogut also was out.