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Nets defy all odds with win over Bucks

Stun NBA-best Milwaukee with short-handed roster in Orlando

August 5, 2020 John Torenli
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Giannis Antetokounmpo and the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks will have to wait at least another game to wrap up the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

That’s because the short-handed Brooklyn Nets pulled off the biggest against-the-spread upset the NBA has seen in 27 years with a stunning 119-116 victory over the Bucks Tuesday afternoon at the league’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida.

“I totally do believe in momentum and the momentum of keeping your spirit in check,” Nets interim head coach Jacque Vaughn said after Brooklyn, which entered the contest as a 19-point underdog, somehow improved to 2-1 since the restart.

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The Nets, who moved closer to nailing down their second consecutive postseason berth with Sunday’s 118-110 victory over the Washington Wizards, opted to rest starters Jarrett Allen, Joe Harris and Caris LeVert against Milwaukee.

With their roster already depleted of most of its star power — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and several other notable players — due to injury and positive COVID-19 tests, the Nets (32-35) were expected to roll over for the Bucks (54-14).

Instead, they ignored the oddsmakers and rode previously seldom-used players like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Garrett Temple to the league’s biggest point-spread upset since the Dallas Mavericks beat the Seattle SuperSonics on April 6, 1993 as 19 1/2-point underdogs.

Luwawu-Cabarrot scored a team-high 26 points and swished back-to-back 3-pointers to give Brooklyn the lead for good, 115-110, with 2:31 remaining.

Temple added 19 points and drilled a game-sealing, step-back 20-footer with 7.3 ticks left on the clock to put away the Bucks, who sat Antetokounmpo after the likely league MVP put up 16 points in the first half.

“We talked about as a group, the symbolism of bamboo, being extremely resilient and extremely flexible and adaptable,” Vaughn said after his makeshift unit moved the Nets back into the seventh seed in the East and eight games ahead of ninth-seeded Washington.

“Tonight was another example,” he added “We had to be all of those three things with a different lineup. And so overall, that concept has stayed and hopefully continues.”

Jacque Vaughn improved to 5-1 as Nets interim head coach after Brooklyn stunned Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Ashley Landis/AP

Brooklyn must finish more than four games ahead of the Wizards to avert a potential two-game play-in series.

Orlando, which topped the Nets in last weekend’s restart opener, remains in eighth place, just a half-game behind Brooklyn, which will shoot for its third straight win Wednesday against the Boston Celtics.

“Whatever happened, we won the game with the people we had and they had and they played so it’s very big for us, our confidence — we may see them in the first round [of the playoffs], so it’s something we were coming into, making sure we make a statement,” Temple said.

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