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10-19

Bucks-Nets Preview

AP - Sports

The Brooklyn Nets heard it from the crowd after coming out with another lousy performance on Christmas Day.

A matchup against the NBA's worst team could give Nets fans something to cheer about.

Brooklyn tries to avoid a season worst-tying fifth consecutive loss Friday night when it hosts the Milwaukee Bucks, who expect Larry Sanders to return following an eight-week absence.

While much has been made about the Nets' struggles, things got especially bad in Wednesday's 95-78 loss to Chicago. Brooklyn, which posted season lows in scoring and field goal percentage (35.2), was done in by the Bulls' 21-5 run in the third quarter.

"They cheer when things are good and they let you know when things aren't going good," coach Jason Kidd said. "They expect good and they expect it 90 percent of the time, but right now we are 90 percent bad and so they have every right to boo and express how they feel."

Deron Williams led three Nets in double figures with 18 points and Mirza Teletovic scored 17. Andray Blatche and Paul Pierce combined for 13 off the bench on 2-of-19 shooting.

"At the end of the day, the coach can only hold you responsible for energy and effort. If you're not giving it, I have to take you out," Kidd told the team's official website. "If you're missing shots, that's just part of the game. But if you're not giving energy or effort, I've got to take you out."

After losing Brook Lopez to a season-ending broken foot last week, the Nets will likely need to lean on Williams even more. He is averaging 16.8 points and 9.0 assists while shooting 50.0 percent in eight games since returning from a sprained ankle.

"I'm surprised at this season, how it's played out altogether," he said. "It's like a nightmare the way the injuries have been, the things we talk about every day, the lack of effort, the lack of energy."

Brooklyn could catch a break with Milwaukee (6-22) coming to town. The Bucks are shooting 42.1 percent to rank last in the NBA and are 28th in scoring with 92.6 points per game.

However, Milwaukee could get a boost from Sanders, who played in the first three games before tearing a ligament in his thumb during a bar fight. Sanders finished second in the league with an average of 2.8 blocks last season.

Losers in six of seven, the Bucks are coming off Monday's 111-110 overtime defeat at Charlotte. Brandon Knight had 26 points, a career-high 14 assists and eight rebounds and Khris Middleton scored 19.

The Bucks had a chance to force double-OT with 1.6 seconds left, but Middleton's long jumper was ruled a 2-pointer after replay confirmed his foot was on the 3-point line. Milwaukee has played four overtimes in its last three losses.

"We just have to get over the hump," coach Larry Drew said. "We're knocking at the door. We just have to get over the hump. We're putting ourselves in position. Like I told the guys, we can have good stretches and then we have breakdowns. Bad shots are just as good as a turnover. Particularly on the road. You have to be disciplined enough to get good shots."

The Bucks had taken 13 straight from the Nets before losing the last three matchups by an average of 4.3 points. Milwaukee fell 90-82 on Dec. 7, as Lopez scored 32 points on 11-of-13 shooting.

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