Mon. Final: Bucks 107, Nets 78
Next game: Wednesday, April 1 vs. L.A. Lakers
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- After struggling for most of the month, the Milwaukee Bucks got a gift from Richard Jefferson's former New Jersey Nets teammates -- a no-show effort.
Jefferson had 29 points and 10 rebounds and the Bucks snapped a season-high, five-game losing streak with a 107-78 victory over the reeling Nets on Monday night.
"This month has been brutal for us," said forward Charlie Villanueva, who added 20 points to help the Bucks kept their slim hopes for a playoff berth alive. "It's been very difficult for us. For a change we were actually playing with the lead."
The win was only the fifth in 19 games for Milwaukee (32-43), which is four games behind Chicago in the race for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks have seven games left.
"We absolutely needed this one, not only for the playoff race but for our morale," said rookie Joe Alexander, who had a career-high 16 points. "We've been losing a lot of these types of games. No one likes to lose and we needed this one."
The win also snapped a seven-game road losing streak and sent the Nets to their fifth straight loss, matching their season high.
Chris Douglas-Roberts had 14 points and Brook Lopez added 10 points and 10 rebounds for New Jersey, which suffered its second embarrassing loss in 24 hours. Minnesota snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating the Nets on Sunday.
"These two games can't be what we are remembered for," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We have to be embarrassed by what we put forth and we have to vow to be better because it's not professional to compete the way we have competed the last two games."
The loss to the Timberwolves was only a nine-point setback. This one was a blowout, and it was never close after Milwaukee used an 18-0 run in the final 4:51 of the first quarter to 32-13 lead.
Jefferson, traded to Milwaukee after last season, started the run with a 3-pointer and added four free throws before it was over. Villanueva had a big slam and six points, and Alexander capped the spurt 3-pointer.
"It's always good to come in here and see the fans, the people who pretty much supported you since I got drafted," said Jefferson, who matched his season high by hitting four 3-pointers. "To play well for them is special."
Other than appreciating Jefferson, the Nets fans had little to cheer.
The final three quarters were garbage time, punctuated by boos by the sparse crowd when the Bucks pushed the lead into the 20s and 30s over the final three quarters.
Frank started his news conference by apologizing to the fans, but insisted that his team has not given up.
"I could not blame you for making that assessment, but I really do believe this group has too much character to let go," Frank said. "What we did the last two nights was succumb. I can promise you that is not how we are going to finish the season."
Vince Carter, who combined with Devin Harris for 19 points on 6-of-22 shooting, agreed with his coach.
"We have too many guys on this team who believe in what we have," Carter said. "I don't think this team has given up. We just have to change our approach."
The frustration got to Frank in the third quarter. He picked up technical foul for arguing a no-call on a layup attempt by Ryan Anderson.
The Nets futility was never more evident than early in the third quarter when Bucks center Dan Gadzuric stole the ball from Trenton Hassell under the Milwaukee basket, dribbled behind his back and dunked.
As Gadzuric ran down the court and chest bumped with Jefferson, Frank called a time out and the Nets walked off the court to more jeers.
"That was the best play of the night," Jefferson said.
The loss reduced the Nets' magic number for being eliminated from playoff contention to three. The Nets have lost 17 of 23.
Notes: Bucks backup G Keith Bogans sprained his right ankle in the first half and did not return. ... Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said C Andrew Bogut had tests on his back on Monday, but didn't know the results. The center has been sidelined since Feb. 3 with a stress fracture in his lower back. ... Nets fans saved their biggest cheer for Giants tight end Kevin Boss. ... Nets G Keyon Dooling was called for a flagrant foul against Alexander in the third quarter for a face rack on a layup attempt.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)