MILWAUKEE - A Brooklyn Nets team searching for its identity got a much-needed 90-82 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday night.
Center Brook Lopez scored a season-high 32 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Nets (6-14) avoided a share of the Eastern Conference cellar with Milwaukee (4-16).
Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said Lopez "commanded attention" and played a great game.
"He has seen a lot of double teams in his young career and is making all the right plays," Kidd said. "He lets guys get to their spots, and those guys are knocking down shots. At some point, he will see a little bit more of the single coverage he feels comfortable in if other guys continue to make shots."
Guard Joe Johnson finished with 15 points, knocking down a pair of three-pointers, and dished five assists to surpass 4,000 for his career.
Forward Andray Blatche added 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the Brooklyn bench. Forward Alan Anderson chipped in 13 points, including two threes of his own.
The win was the Nets' third road victory of the season, and despite solid nights from their two healthy stars, the Nets attributed their success to their ability move the ball as a team and score when it counted.
"This is a game where we talked for 48 minutes," Anderson said. "We talked, helped each other out. They went on a run and we kept talking, kept playing together. If we get out of sync and we start trying to depend on Joe [Johnson] or Brook [Lopez] to get isolation, we'll give them the ball and just watch. Today we moved the ball, played well together on defense and offense."
Guard O.J. Mayo led the Bucks with 22 points including a pair of threes, while center John Henson added 18 points and seven rebounds.
Mayo tried to bring the Bucks back, leading all scorers in the fourth quarter with 12 points, but Lopez, Johnson and forwards Kevin Garnett and Reggie Evans scored four points each to close out Milwaukee.
Garnett finished with just six points and eight rebounds, but came through with some clutch buckets down the stretch and two big fourth-quarter blocks.
He put back an offensive rebound to give the Nets a nine-point lead with 3:24 to play. Then he blocked a Brandon Knight attempt and knocked down a 19-foot jumper at the other end to give Brooklyn a 10-point lead with 1:42 to play.
The otherwise back-and-forth affair featured 11 lead changes, but the Nets took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter and never looked back.
Mayo, guard Gary Neal and center Miroslav Raduljica combined for 18 second-quarter points to help Milwaukee to a 40-39 halftime lead.
Lopez and Henson set the pace early on with 19 points combined in the first quarter, and Lopez finished the first half with 20. It was the 13th time in his career the Nets' center eclipsed the 20-point mark in the first 20 minutes.
"It was a good team effort," Lopez said. "It was a great team effort. That's exactly what we needed. We need to take this momentum and let it carry us."
Milwaukee coach Larry Drew said his team was too "stagnant" offensively, and they had no response for Lopez in the paint.
"One thing about this league, it's a game of matchups," Drew said. "Obviously tonight's matchups did bother us a lot. We really had no answer for Lopez. Down low, we couldn't play him one-on-one because he is just too big. We tried a couple different things, but he was still able to get the ball out and get it to his shooters... With no Zaza [Pachulia], we had to protect Ekpe [Udoh] and John [Henson] as much as we could."
Henson's double-digit effort was his fifth in a row and 14th overall this season, but defensively the Bucks' big man struggled against the dominant Lopez.
"When you think about guys his size, there are only a few of them," Henson said. "You got him, [Roy] Hibbert, [Dwight] Howard and [Demarcus] Cousins [are] about his size. There are not many of them and that's why he is who he is."
Brooklyn won the battle of the boards 41-36 and scored 44 points in the paint to Milwaukee's 30.
NOTES: Milwaukee played without F Caron Butler (sore left knee), G Carlos Delfino (foot), C Zaza Pachulia (sprained right foot) and C Larry Sanders (thumb). ... Nets G Shaun Livingston started at point over G Tyshawn Taylor, while F Paul Pierce (right hand), G Deron Williams (left ankle), G Jason Terry (knee) and F Andrei Kirilenko (back) remained sidelined for Brooklyn. ... Bucks F Ekpe Udoh (right ankle) started after coming off the bench in Milwaukee's 109-105 OT win at Washington on Dec. 6. ... Nets F Brook Lopez scored in double figures for the fifth consecutive game since returning Nov.29 from a sprained left ankle injury that caused him to miss seven games.