Jefferson wins battle of returners

rj_250.jpgMILWAUKEE – Yi Jianlian’s return didn’t turn out the way that he or the Nets hoped. Neither did Richard Jefferson’s first game against his old team – to a point.
 
At least Jefferson walked out with a win, despite a bad shooting night and a bad play at the end of the game the Bucks won 104-102. Yi left Milwaukee with a broken pinkie and likely will miss at least a month now.
 
That, of course, is bigger than the result of the game. Yi had just started playing well. He had 16 points through three quarters when he hurt his hand trying to make a steal.
 
Jefferson, on the other hand, didn’t look anything like the player he was with the Nets all those years. And on Jefferson bobblehead night, he made a knucklehead play.
 
He left Bobby Simmons – who also was involved in the blockbuster trade – alone for the game-tying three with nine seconds left. But 8.5 seconds later, Luke Ridnour’s runner bounced off the rim and dropped in for the game-winning shot. Jefferson hugged Ridnour and didn’t want to let go.
 
“I had to come in here and apologize to my teammates and coaching staff for that bonehead error I did, just leaving my man in the corner for the three,” Jefferson said. “That was just dumb.
 
“There was nobody in the arena more [ticked] off than myself. I’m just glad my teammate bailed me out.”
 
First it was Ridnour and then Luc Mbah a Moute.
 
As Simmons inbounded the ball, Mbah a Moute slapped it away. It was headed for Vince Carter, of course, and anyone who thinks he didn’t have enough time with five-tenths of a second to go you probably should think again.
 
“That’s all I needed,” Carter said. “But it’s unfortunate.”
 
Carter did it all with 23 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds, but couldn’t do one thing and that’s get a final shot off.
 
It was surprising the Nets had a shot at all. They were down 14 in the third and 12 about midway through the fourth. The Bucks seemed in control up five with about 90 seconds left and the ball as well as up three with under 40 and the ball.
 
But they tried to give the Nets the game ,and they almost did, if not for the smallest guy on the floor getting inside for the runner late.
 
Jefferson scored just 13 points and missed 12-of-15 shots. You could tell he was trying to score and beat the Nets. He probably tried too hard. Jefferson is a better basketball player than what he showed.
 
Then again all of his numbers are down from last year. That seems to speak to what’s happened to all former Nets when they leave Jason Kidd and now Carter.
 
Look at Kenyon Martin, Lucious Harris, Jason Collins, Aaron Williams and all the other guys that did well in Jersey. Playing with Kidd and now Carter makes players better and gets them better contracts.
 
But Jefferson got the win, despite a bad shooting night and bad judgment on defense. At least he left the building healthy. The integral player the Nets acquired for Jefferson can’t say that. So the Nets suffered two losses in Milwaukee.
 
***
Devin Harris missed his second straight game due to a sore right hamstring. He’s expected back Monday against Oklahoma City.
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

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