Nothing came easily for the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night, but they got the job done with some true grit.
Eric Bledsoe scored 29 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 28 and 11 rebounds to lead the Bucks to a 131-121 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclay Center.
The Bucks (58-20) reduced their magic number to one for clinching the best record in the league and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
George Hill chipped in 22 points for the Bucks as he continued a spell of strong play.
Much like Sunday’s game, the Bucks built a huge lead in the first quarter but could not sustain. Whereas they built a 23-point lead Sunday, they built a 22-point lead Monday night. The lead was gone by the middle of the second period, as the Nets closed the first quarter with a 7-0 run, then opened the second quarter with a 15-2 spree.
The Bucks reclaimed the lead and led by as much as 57-47 before settling on a 59-54 lead at the half.
Brooklyn pulled even at 61 with a 7-0 run and took brief leads of up to three points. Spencer Dinwiddie’s two free throws with 2:17 in the third gave the Nets their final lead of the night at 84-83, Bledsoe scored six points in the final 1:50 of the period, and the Bucks took a 91-89 lead into the fourth.
Antetokounmpo came out aggressive in the fourth quarter, scoring seven points in the first 1:39 to give the Bucks a 101-91 lead. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Joe Harris and Caris LeVert cut it to 101-97, and another Harris three made it 103-100 with 9:12 left.
Bledsoe answered with a 3-pointer, and Hill scored the next five to cap an 8-0 run that made it 111-100, and the Nets would get no closer than four the rest of the way.
D’Angelo Russell led the Nets with 28 points, LeVert added 20 and DeMarre Carroll finished with 20. Harris, the league-leader in 3-point percentage, made 5 of 7 threes and finished with 17 points.
The Nets (39-39) are a half-game behind sixth-place Detroit, but just a half-game ahead of eighth-place Miami and one game ahead of ninth-place Orlando.
The Bucks got hammered on the boards, 55-40, as Brooklyn pulled in 16 offensive rebounds.