MILWAUKEE (AP) — D’Angelo Russell had 25 points and 10 assists, and the Brooklyn Nets beat the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks 133-128 on Saturday to improve their positioning in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Brooklyn (40-40) made 19 3-pointers and placed eight players in double figures. Caris LeVert had 24 points, and Jared Dudley finished with 16.
The Nets, who had dropped four of five, moved into sixth place in the East. Orlando also is 40-40, and Detroit is a half-game back with a 39-40 record.
Milwaukee played without MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was sidelined by a left calf injury. The Bucks (59-21) clinched the NBA’s best record with a road victory against Philadelphia on Thursday night.
Eric Bledsoe had 33 points and 11 assists for Milwaukee, and Khris Middleton finished with 24 points.
Bledsoe’s two foul shots made it 128-126 Bucks with 2:30 left, but the Nets closed the game with a 7-0 run. Russell made two free throws, Joe Harris drilled a tiebreaking 3 and Russell drove for a basket with 59.1 seconds remaining.
Dudley had 14 points in the second half and grabbed an offensive rebound in the final minute to help Brooklyn hold on.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo was kicked or hit in the calf against the 76ers and understood sitting out could help him get ready for the playoffs next week.
“There has been a significant amount of success and winning that has helped him be less difficult,” Budenholzer said. “I have flashbacks to the first couple games; he was upset every time I took him out of the game. When I think about that to where we are today, it has been great.”
Brooklyn shot 52% from the field and scored 36 points in the paint on its way to a 66-65 halftime lead. Russell had 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and LeVert added 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Nets: Brooklyn finishes the season with games at Indiana on Sunday and home against Miami on Wednesday. The Nets hold tiebreakers over Detroit and Orlando. “I see an elevated level of play, especially from these elite teams,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It’s great for us to see that and embrace that. Playing well is not good enough.”
Bucks: F Ersan Ilyasova broke his nose during Thursday’s game but played without a mask and contributed 12 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. ... Former Bucks players Sidney Moncrief and Jack Sikma were selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday. Moncrief, a five-time All-Star and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, spent 10 of his 11 seasons in Milwaukee. He ranks third on the franchise’s career scoring list. Sikma played with the Bucks from 1986-91 after spending his first seven seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics.
Nets: At Indiana on Sunday.
Bucks: Host Atlanta on Sunday.