EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks fixed all their Game 1 mistakes except for one, which was just good enough to get a
Gary Payton had 22 points, Sam Cassell added 21 and the Bucks
overcame three missed free throws in the final 10.4 seconds and 11
botched foul shots among 20 attempts to defeat New Jersey 88-85
Tuesday night and even their first-round series at one game apiece.
"I'd rather we have just one problem than as many as we had
after the first game,'' Toni Kukoc said.
Payton and everyone around him had a much better game than they
did in the series opener, when Milwaukee fell behind by as many as
This time, it was the Bucks who thrived on the fast break,
dictated the tempo and played determined defense to seize the
home-court advantage heading into Game 3 Thursday night at
"That other game was a blowout because we didn't come to play.
Today we came to play, and this is the way playoff basketball
should be -- tit-for-tat, going back and forth, and giving the fans
a good game,'' Payton said.
Milwaukee finished at 45 percent from the line after shooting
only 50 percent in Game 1. The Nets outrebounded the Bucks 45-34,
but Payton and Cassell more than made up for it by carrying
Milwaukee's offense in a game in which there were 30 lead changes
and 18 ties, and neither team led by more than five points.
The Bucks still couldn't stop Kenyon Martin, who had 22 points
and 12 rebounds, but they prevented Jason Kidd from again
dominating the point guard matchup, and they limited the Nets to
just nine fast-break points.
"I don't think we're ever going to be equal with them in
rebounding, so we'll just have to make up for it in some other part
of the game,'' Bucks coach George Karl said.
Martin scored on a putback with 11.1 seconds left to cut the
Bucks' lead to 86-85, and Jason Collins fouled Cassell before the
Bucks inbounded the ball. Cassell made the free throw, and
Milwaukee retained possession.
Tim Thomas was fouled intentionally with 10.4 seconds left, but
he missed both free throws. A 78-percent foul shooter during the
regular season, Thomas went just 3-for-8 from the line.
"It was really nerve-racking, and it made the game a lot more
tense than it had to be,'' Desmond Mason said.
The Nets inbounded to Kidd, who dribbled right, spun left and
tried an 18-footer that hit the rim and missed. Desmond Mason
grabbed the rebound and was fouled, missing the first and then
making the second to keep New Jersey in it. But on the final play,
Rodney Rogers tripped over Payton's foot while running to catch
Lucious Harris' inbounds pass. The Bucks picked up the loose ball
as the final buzzer sounded.
Payton let everyone know right away that he wouldn't have a
repeat of his offensive struggles in Game 1, when he was held
scoreless for the first 43 minutes. Payton connected on his first
three shots -- a jumper, a runner and a turnaround -- as Milwaukee
stayed right with the Nets from the beginning.
The Bucks found a way to repeatedly get Kidd to switch to Thomas
in the low post, and Thomas used his height advantage to score
three consecutive times over Kidd. The first quarter ended in a
26-26 tie, with Payton scoring 10 and Kidd committing four turnovers.
With Milwaukee taking away the fast break, Kidd didn't get
untracked offensively until late in the second quarter. He weaved
through three defenders to feed Aaron Williams for a dunk at the
end of the second quarter to produce a 49-49 deadlock at halftime.
"I don't think we wanted to slow the game down. What I call it
is a smart tempo,'' Karl said. "But when we get back to Milwaukee,
we're going to run up and down with them.''
The Nets took their first lead of the fourth quarter with 5:26
left on Martin's jump hook. New Jersey held the lead until Thomas
hit a 3-pointer with 2:57 left to put the Bucks up 82-81. Kukoc
followed with a steal, leading to a breakaway layup by Cassell.
Kidd's jumper with 2:24 left made it a one-point game, but Kukoc
answered with a post-up basket, and the Nets had two turnovers and
two missed shots among their next four possessions.
Kidd landed on top of his 4-year-old son, T.J., while
chasing a ball out of bounds late in the fourth quarter. T.J. was
reduced to tears, but he seemed OK by the time New York Giants
tight end Jeremy Shockey checked on him a few minutes later during
a timeout. Kidd said the team doctor was checking his son after the
game. ... Nets reserve C Dikembe Mutombo played only eight minutes,
sitting out the entire second half. ... Thomas and Joel Przybilla
replaced rookie Marcus Haislip and Ervin Johnson in Milwaukee's