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Bucks edge Nets on final shot after wasting 14-point lead

MILWAUKEE -- Richard Jefferson's mistake gave New Jersey another chance. One of the players Jefferson was traded for let it slip away.

Luke Ridnour's 5-foot floater with 0.5 seconds left lifted the Bucks to a 104-102 victory over the Nets on Friday night in the first meeting since Jefferson was dealt on draft day to Milwaukee for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons.

Jefferson left Simmons alone to try to defend Vince Carter in the closing seconds and Simmons, who finished with 15 points by going 5-of-9 from 3-point range, hit his final one with 9 seconds left to tie it at 102.

"I've been in too many big games in my life, way too many clutch games to make that type of error, that type of mistake," Jefferson said. "I'm glad my teammate bailed me out."

Simmons gestured to the Bucks' bench after his big shot, but on the next possession Ridnour got a screen and went around his back while Simmons slipped to the floor on defense, giving the point guard the lane for the easy floater that rolled around the rim before falling in for the victory.

"They switched it, so I just tried to go at it and attack it. I was able to get a good look off of it," said Ridnour, who saw Simmons fall to the floor but felt the shot was good even as it hung on the rim. "I threw it up soft."

Simmons said he was just being "competitive" in the closing seconds, but his slip cost the Nets, who had held Milwaukee's biggest threat, Michael Redd, scoreless over a 31-minute span.

Redd finally got going when he hit a 3 to give Milwaukee a 100-93 with 3:11 left. But Carter, who finished with 23 points, 14 assists and one rebound short of his fifth triple-double, hit a fadeaway jumper and set up a layup by Brook Lopez to make it 100-97.

"I've been guarding him since I was a rookie, then every day in practice for a few years," Jefferson said. "He had one of the easiest 23-14-9 games you'll ever see. Vince doesn't see that's the frustration. Like Vince, can't you do that every night or at least every other night?"

Redd hit another jumper to finish with 24 points and Carter answered with two free throws to make it 102-99 as the Nets cut into a 14-point lead down the stretch by hitting 16 of 30 3-pointers, one off the franchise mark.

After both teams failed to score on their next possession with less than a minute to go, the Nets had a chance with 17 seconds remaining when Carter drove deep down the lane, kicking to Simmons for the game-tying 3.

"Vince, the play he made was unbelievable," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "He drove, forced the help and to see it, that's rehearsed in terms of knowing where your spots are. VC made a great pass and it's a shame we couldn't bring it to overtime."

Yi scored 16 points, but left late in the third quarter after breaking his pinkie finger on his right hand trying to slap at a ball on defense. He'll miss three-to-four weeks.

"It's a tough time for him because he's been playing great basketball," Carter said. "Everybody was looking for Yi to make sure he was all right and support him. ... It's unfortunate."

Jefferson struggled in his first game against the team he spent seven years with, finishing 3-of-15 from the field for 13 points. He said the game meant more only because the two teams are so close in the standings.

The Nets traded Jason Kidd, the cornerstone of a team that reached the playoffs six straight times and the NBA finals in 2002 and 2003, last season for Devin Harris, who missed his second straight game with a balky right hamstring.

Jefferson was the next to go, but he and Carter remain close. The two had a playful chat near the Nets bench just before the start of the second half that left Carter giggling as he walked away to join his teammates in the huddle.

"I just tried to keep him in a good mood. Don't want to (tick) someone like that off," Jefferson said. "We don't get to see each other that often, so whenever you do, you've got to crack a few jokes."

Game notes
Jarvis Hayes scored 16 points for the Nets, while Milwaukee got 23 points from Charlie Villanueva, 11 from Ramon Sessions and 10 each from Ridnour, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Charlie Bell. ...Milwaukee snapped a four-game losing streak to New Jersey. The Nets have still won nine of the last 11 in the series. ... Milwaukee fans booed Yi each time he touched the ball after feeling that he didn't give the city a chance when his adviser gave indications he wanted to be traded after last year's draft and took several weeks to sign a rookie contract. ... Simmons was the NBA's Most Improved Player with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2004-05, which led to his $47 million, five-year contract with Milwaukee.