MILWAUKEE — The game had little meaning for the Milwaukee Bucks, but there was lots at stake for the Brooklyn Nets.

Veteran Jared Dudley’s offensive rebound set up Joe Harris’ go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:24 left in Brooklyn’s 133-128 victory over the short-handed Bucks on Saturday at Fiserv Forum.

Milwaukee played without MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was sidelined by a left calf injury. The Bucks (59-21) clinched the NBA’s best record with a road victory against Philadelphia on Thursday night.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said Antetokounmpo was kicked or hit in the calf against the 76ers and understood sitting out could help him get ready for the playoffs next week.

“There has been a significant amount of success and winning that has helped him be less difficult,” Budenholzer said. “I have flashbacks to the first couple games; he was upset every time I took him out of the game. When I think about that to where we are today, it has been great.”

Eric Bledsoe, who scored a game-high 33 points in a team-high 33 minutes and had 11 assists, said the team would love to reach the 60-victory mark.

“We want to achieve it but at the same time we want to play the right way,” Bledsoe said. “I thought we did a great job of doing that tonight.

“It was a big game for them. So we’ve just got to move on.”

The Nets (40-40), who had dropped four of five, moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Orlando also has a 40-40 record, and Detroit is a half-game back with a 39-40 record.

The Nets have tiebreakers with both the Magic and Pistons.

Brooklyn made 19 3-pointers and placed eight players in double figures. D’Angelo Russell had 25 points and 10 assists, reserve Caris LeVert scored 24 points and Dudley collected 14 of his season high-tying 16 points in the second half.

Brooklyn shot 52% from the field and scored 36 points in the paint on its way to a 66-65 halftime lead. Russell scored 18 points on 8-for-10 shooting and LeVert had 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

Bledsoe’s two foul shots made it 128-126 Bucks with 2:30 left, but the Nets closed the game with a 7-0 run. Russell made two free throws, Harris drilled his tiebreaking 3 and Russell drove for a basket with 59.1 seconds remaining.

“It was a room-and-rhythm look,” Harris said of his triple. “Sometimes the best opportunity to get a 3 off is on an offensive rebound.”

Nets coach Kenny Atkinson called Dudley “the X factor” and said his instincts and understanding of the league contributed to Brooklyn’s first win in four meetings with Milwaukee this season.

“It was tough, even without Giannis,” Dudley said. “I know that helped us. We just got key stops at the very end.

“I was playing center. They were going small ball. We wanted them to feel a little uncomfortable, having (Brook) Lopez having to guard a little more.”

In the paint

Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova broke his nose during Thursday’s game but played without a mask and contributed 12 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes. George Hill had 14 points and Pat Connaughton finished with 13. ... The Nets’ reserves outscored the Bucks’ backups 69-48. ... The Bucks next host Atlanta on Sunday.


Brooklyn 34 32 42 25 — 133

Milwaukee 26 39 31 32 — 128

BROOKLYN — Carroll 2-8 0-0 4, Kurucs 4-14 0-1 11, Allen 4-4 2-2 10, Russell 10-15 2-3 25, Harris 5-16 1-1 14, Dudley 4-8 6-6 16, Graham 3-9 0-0 9, Davis 4-4 2-3 10, Dinwiddie 3-7 3-3 10, LeVert 9-12 2-4 24. Totals 48-97 18-23 133.

MILWAUKEE — Middleton 9-18 4-4 24, Wilson 2-7 0-0 5, Lopez 2-8 2-2 7, Bledsoe 12-17 4-7 33, Brown 5-7 0-2 11, Ilyasova 5-10 1-1 12, Hill 5-8 2-2 14, Frazier 3-5 1-2 9, Connaughton 6-8 0-1 13. Totals 49-88 14-21 128.

3-point goals — B 19-45 (LeVert 4-5, Russell 3-4, Harris 3-6, Graham 3-7, Kurucs 3-11, Dudley 2-4, Dinwiddie 1-4, Carroll 0-4), M 16-34 (Bledsoe 5-6, Frazier 2-2, Hill 2-4, Middleton 2-7, Brown 1-2, Connaughton 1-2, Lopez 1-3, Ilyasova 1-3, Wilson 1-5). Rebounds — B 43 (Allen 7), M 43 (Lopez, Connaughton 8). Assists — B 24 (Russell 10), M 28 (Bledsoe 11). Total fouls — B 19, M 18. Technicals — Lopez, M coach Budenholzer. Att. — 18,116.

Bucky!

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