Russell, LeVert will Nets past Bucks, keeping Brooklyn’s playoff hopes alive

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Final: 04/06/2019

W 133 128

Nets fans, you can now exhale.

The Brooklyn Nets — in a nail-biter — defeated the Bucks, strengthing their postseason bid. Led by D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert, Brooklyn came to play this afternoon.

For the umpteenth time this season, Brooklyn played their most important game of the season today.

In a season that began with little playoff aspiration, the Nets control their postseason fate. Who would have believed that in October?

A few hours before tip-off, the Bucks announced that Giannis Antetokounmpo — dealing with a sore calf — would miss this afternoon’s game against the Nets. The Nets were due for some good luck. But Milwaukee — who owns the NBA’s best record — has no shortage of talent. A Brooklyn win this afternoon would not come easy.

D’Angelo Russell had other ideas.

In the first six minutes of action, Russell scored 12 of Brooklyn’s 18 points, helping the Nets to an eight-point lead at the end of the opening quarter. Russell ended the half with 18 points. He wasn’t in the business of missing the playoffs.

Once leading by 14 in the second, Brooklyn’s first-half performance was their best since the return of both Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nets moved the ball around the perimeter with ease, sacrificing good shots for great shots. LeVert was excellent in the first half, scoring 14 points on 6-7 shooting. He’s back to his old self, and it’s wonderful to see.

And despite losing the rebound battle — albeit by just two — the Nets committed only three turnovers. In Monday’s loss to Milwaukee, Brooklyn committed a total of 23 (!) turnovers — not a recipe for success. But the Eric Bledsoe-led Bucks came back strong late in the second quarter and entered the half down 66-65.

The Nets came out firing to begin the second half, taking an early 12-point lead. Rodions Kurucs and Joe Harris both drained a pair of early threes. Brooklyn hit nine threes in the third quarter and scored 42 points against the short-handed Bucks.

Per Nets PR, the onslaught of offense marked their most points scored through three quarters in a road game this season — thusly, Brooklyn led 108-96 at the end of the third.

But the Bucks would not go away. Milwaukee battled in the fourth, desperately trying to secure their 60th win of the season. Kris Middleton tied the game at 113 with just under nine minutes left in the game. As aforementioned, a win would not come easy.

In a game of runs, the Nets and Bucks went back-and-forth during the game’s final minutes. Neither team could pull away.

With 1:24 left, Joe Harris drained a three to give the Nets a three-point lead. After Sterling Brown missed a pair of free throws, Russell extended Brooklyn’s lead to five.

Ultimately, the Nets would never look back, defeating the Bucks 133-128.

The Nets’ crunch-time lineup of Russell, Harris, LeVert, Graham, and Dudley came through this afternoon, leading the Nets to victory. Brooklyn is back to .500 (40-40) on the season and now holds the East’s sixth seed.

The Nets now travel to Indiana to play the Pacers tomorrow afternoon. It will be their penultimate game of the season.

Rest easy, Nets fans. You deserve it.

D'Angelo Russell

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The stats: 25 PTS, 10-15 FG, 3-4 3PT, 2-3 FT, 2 REB, 10 AST, 2 STL, 3 TO, 32 MIN

From the jump, ice ran through the veins of D’Angelo Russell. After 18 first-half points, Russell’s teammates covered most of the load in the third quarter.

But in the fourth, Russell hit some clutch shots to help Brooklyn secure win No. 40.

Russell was very efficient from the field tonight, converting on 10 of his 15 field goal attempts and the All-Star recorded his 14th double-double of the season.

Caris LeVert

A+

The stats: 24 PTS, 9-12 FG, 4-5 3PT, 2-4 FT, 2 REB, 6 AST, 2 TO, 25 MIN

In Monday’s game against the Bucks, Caris LeVert scored the most points (24) since returning from injury.

It looked like he lost his touch in Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors, but that was not the case this afternoon. He scored 14 points in the first half and looked so smooth on both ends of the floor.

In just 25 minutes, LeVert scored 24 points!

His stroke from beyond the arc was near-perfection this afternoon, and he found the open man at will. LeVert played an all-around fantastic game.

LeVert now has 20-plus points in two of his last three games and will look to continue his hot streak tomorrow afternoon in Indiana.

Joe Harris

B+

The stats: 14 PTS, 5-16 FG, 3-6 3PT, 1-1 FT, 6 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1 TO, 34 MIN

For much of the game, Beef Jerky Joe was not himself.

But when the Nets needed him most, Harris drained a three to give Brooklyn the lead.

Even when Harris struggles, he still finds a way to make a positive impact.

Jarrett Allen

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The stats: 10 PTS, 4-4 FG, 2-2 FT, 7 REB, 12 MIN

In just 12 minutes of action, Jarrett Allen’s offensive game was fluid tonight.

He hit multiple hook shots from the low-post, taking advantage of Antetokounmpo’s absence.

But as a result of Milwaukee going small, head coach Kenny Atkinson opted to sit Allen in favor of Dudley and Graham.

Allen will look to capitalize on his success tomorrow in Indiana.

Jared Dudley

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The stats: 16 PTS, 4-8 FG, 2-4 3PT, 6-6 FT, 6 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 23 MIN

Most non-Nets fans don’t associate Jared Dudley’s name with overwhelming positivity these days — but his impact on this Brooklyn team cannot be measured.

This afternoon — against his one of his former teams — Dudley balled out.

Dudley anchored the Nets’ defense, forcing two steals and heavily contesting several Milwaukee shots.

In addition to his perfection from the stripe, Dudley scored from the field at an efficient rate.

However, his biggest impact tonight was on the offensive glass, grabbing four offensive rebounds. One of his offensive rebounds led to Harris’s go-ahead three.

Dudley is an indispensable piece of the Brooklyn Nets.

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