Bucks-Nets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 08, 2012
Maybe a new home and look will get the Brooklyn Nets over the hump against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets go for their first win in this series in nearly four years as they host the Bucks on Sunday night. Milwaukee has won the past 11 meetings, with its last loss coming March 3, 2009, but those all came when the Nets were based in New Jersey. Those games also were before Brooklyn's offseason additions of Joe Johnson and Andray Blatche - two of its top four scorers. It seems the Nets (11-7) have a decent chance to end the drought this season, on pace to finish with a better record than the Bucks (9-9) for the first time since 2007-08. However, Brooklyn enters this matchup trying to snap a three-game losing streak, the last two at Barclays Center. The Nets had won five straight before the skid, which continued with a 109-102 loss to Golden State on Friday. Their impressive 11-4 start was anchored by defense. They held opponents to 90.4 points per game during that span, but that number is 109.3 over the last three. The Nets' last three opponents shot a combined 53.8 percent from the field, including 43.4 percent 3-point shooting. "Our problem is defense," coach Avery Johnson said. "We are not the same team defensively. We have to get back and figure it out. We have to get our team out of this defensive funk." The loss of 7-foot center Brook Lopez could be partially to blame. Lopez, averaging a career-high 2.5 blocks, has missed the last four games with a sprained right foot and is likely out Sunday. He performed more agility and shooting drills Saturday and was pain free but is still considered day-to-day. Blatche has played well taking Lopez's place in the lineup, averaging 18.8 points in his first four starts of the season. Blatche had 22 points with a season-high 15 rebounds Friday, and Johnson scored a season-best 32, but Brooklyn wasted a 13-point lead in the first half. A week earlier, the team blew a 14-point advantage in a loss to Miami. "We've had similar games like this all season where we get out to a lead and really can't hang on to it," said Deron Williams, who has 56 points over the last two games. Milwaukee is also struggling after a surprising 6-2 start. The Bucks have dropped seven of 10, even with Friday's 108-93 home win over Charlotte. Their second-highest scoring total of the season and first 100-point performance since Nov. 21 was a welcome shift. Milwaukee averaged 91.9 points in its previous nine games after putting up 101.0 per game in the first eight. Leading scorers Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings were held to a combined 28 points on 8-of-27 shooting Friday, but the Bucks improved to 5-0 when Jennings has at least eight assists. Ersan Ilyasova stepped up with season highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Marquis Daniels scored a season-best 18 in his fourth straight start. Daniels was 3 of 3 from beyond the arc and has hit his last four after starting 1 for 12. "They kept telling me to look to shoot the ball, look to score," he said. "It opened it up for the other guys." Mike Dunleavy, averaging 10.8 points but held below double figures in his last five, could miss a third consecutive game due to a bruised left knee. Jennings averaged 27.0 points in Milwaukee's three-game sweep last season.
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