Nets remain winless in Brooklyn
Drop to 0-3 at Barclays with 129-125 loss to Bucks
There’s no place like home.
Unless you’re the Brooklyn Nets during this early season stretch of misery at Downtown’s Barclays Center.
Despite a season-high 45 points from Cam Thomas, the Nets were overwhelmed by Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks down the stretch Monday night, suffering a 129-125 loss to fall to 0-3 on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush in front of 17,935 disappointed fans.
Thomas, the second-youngest player to score at least 30 points in his team’s first three games, slowed down a bit in road victories over Miami and Chicago last week before putting up 27 points in Saturday’s 114-112 defeat to Boston in the opener of this three-game homestand.
The 6-foot-3 shooting guard had the touch, and the majority of touches, during Brooklyn’s latest bid for a home win. He went 17-of-33 from the floor, including 6-of-16 from 3-point range, to go with four rebounds, three assists and a steal in a season-high 41 minutes.
Thomas splashed a pair of 3s during an 11-0 burst in the second quarter that helped the Nets (3-4) to a 67-63 lead at intermission.
He helped Brooklyn overcome a nine-point deficit early in the fourth quarter as well, converting a three-point play, a six-foot runner and a jumper during a 12-0 run to give the Nets a 111-108 advantage midway through the final period.
However, Antetokounmpo took control thereafter, pouring in nine points as Milwaukee (4-2) finished the game on a 17-10 run that included a game-sealing free throw by Jae Crowder with 5.2 ticks on the clock.
“We executed really well, we just missed the shots at the end,” lamented Thomas, who misfired on a 22-footer and 23-footer around a made layup in the final minute.
Antetokounmpo finished with 36 points, 12 boards and a pair of blocks for the Bucks, who also got 21 points and seven assists from Damian Lillard, the point guard the Nets reportedly coveted during this past offseason.
“We got stops when we needed,” Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin said. “That’s an important thing that we can build on and continue to get better.”
Mikal Bridges scored 31 points, Lonnie Walker IV continued to provide offense off the bench with 19 and Royce O’Neale chipped in with 12 points and nine rebounds in a reserve role as well.
Nets starters Spencer Dinwiddie, Ben Simmons and Dorian Finney-Smith combined for only 12 points as Brooklyn again played without injured regulars Cam Johnson (calf) and Nic Claxton (ankle).
As for Thomas, he continues to prove he is a pure scorer.
After leading the Southeastern Conference in that category, the Nets’ first-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft also paced all scorers during his stints in Brooklyn’s Summer League participation and preseason play.
He also put up at least 40 points in three straight games last season, including a career-high 47 against the Los Angeles Clippers here on Feb. 6, after Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were dealt out of Brooklyn.
Thomas is clearly stating his case to remain in the starting lineup, as well as being a go-to option in crunch time after Johnson and/or Claxton return.
“I think he can score the basketball against anyone in this league,” Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn said of Thomas. “He has the confidence to do that, and we’re going to try to put him in positions where he’s helping us win whether that’s creating for himself or for us.”
Thomas and the Nets would also like to create win No. 1 at Barclays Center Wednesday night when the Clippers (3-3) visit for the finale of this thus-far fruitless homestand.
“This is game seven. We’ve got another one Wednesday,” Thomas insisted. “Flush this, and move onto Wednesday.”
NOTHING BUT NET: Antetokounmpo’s 853 career points against the Nets are his most against any NBA opponent. … Thomas’ 40-point effort was his first since April 9 here in last year’s regular-season finale vs. Philadelphia. … After hosting the Clippers on Wednesday, the Nets will travel to Boston on Friday before returning to Barclays to take on Washington Sunday afternoon and Orlando on Nov. 14.
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