Nets suffer fifth consecutive loss after late rally falls short vs. Bucks

MILWAUKEE — The reeling Nets put up a fight, but it still wasn’t enough.

Damian Lillard had 30 points and 12 assists and made two late steals as the Milwaukee Bucks capitalized on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s return to beat the Brooklyn Nets 115-108 on Thursday night.

Mikal Bridges scored 24 points, Nic Claxton had 22 and Cam Thomas 21 for the Nets, who made a big second-half comeback but still lost their fifth straight.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 21 points, battles for the ball with Trendon Wadford (left) and Cam Thomas during the Nets’ 115-108 loss to the Bucks. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Antetokounmpo had 21 points, nine rebounds and five assists after missing two games because of an issue with his left hamstring.

The Bucks rested Khris Middleton a night after he played 33 minutes in a 122-119 loss at Boston, as they continue to manage his workload in his recovery from a sprained left ankle.

After trailing by 20 points late in the second quarter and 18 early in the third, the Nets pulled ahead by outscoring the Bucks 21-6 over the first 5 1/2 minutes of the final period.

Cam Johnson made a 3-pointer with 6:58 left to put Brooklyn ahead 87-88, giving the Nets their first lead since 11-9. Dennis Smith Jr. followed with a steal and a basket to make 90-87 with 6:41 remaining.

Antetokounpmo made a 3-pointer to tie it with six minutes left, and the game went back and forth from there.

Mikal Bridges, who scored 24 points, drives past Brook Lopez during the Nets’ loss. AP

It was tied at 96 when Lillard got a steal and started a fast break.

The sequence resulted in Antetokounmpo scoring on the other end of the floor while getting fouled. Antetokounmpo hit the ensuing free throw to complete a 3-point play with 3:36 remaining.

Milwaukee extended the lead to five on two occasions, but the Nets cut it to 103-101 on Bridges’ 3-pointer with 2:17 left.

After Antetokounmpo missed a shot, the Nets had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.

Dennis Schroder, who scored five points and had nine assists, goes up for a layup as Giannis Antetokounmpo looks on during the Nets’ loss. AP

Dennis Smith Jr. drove into the lane, but Lillard stole the ball, headed upcourt and found Malik Beasley open for a corner 3-pointer that made it 106-101 with 1:37 remaining.

Lillard then sealed the victory by scoring the game’s next five points, including a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left.

Over his last three games, Lillard has averaged 31 points and 11.3 assists.

He has scored at least 30 points in each of those games.

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