EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Nets' latest fourth-quarter collapse has caused them to take a fall.
Struggling again in the fourth quarter, the Nets were knocked out of first place in the Atlantic Division as they suffered a 104-85 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, who got a big final period from rookie Marcus Haislip.
In their last home game on Sunday, the Nets were held without a basket for the final 8:56 in a 92-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. That loss cut the Nets' lead in the division to one-half game over the Sixers.
The Nets rebounded from the loss with Tuesday's win at Boston in which they managed just nine points in the fourth quarter. They again were horrendous in the final period in this one as the Bucks picked up an important win.
Haislip scored six points in a 15-2 run to start the fourth quarter that gave Milwaukee a commanding 88-75 lead with 7:19 remaining.
Looking lost against the Bucks' 3-2 zone defense, the Nets missed their first six shots of the quarter and never were able to cut the deficit under double digits after the Bucks' initial surge. They also committed seven of their 27 turnovers in the fourth quarter as they fell percentage points behind the Sixers.
"Same old story, 27 turnovers," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "When we play like that and we're just throwing the ball all over the place, it's difficult to beat any team in this league, especially a good team. There have been three or four games when we have been turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Somewhere down the line it has to stop. We have to understand how important the ball is."
To make matters worse, the Nets' latest offensive debacle came against against a team that has been struggling defensively. Milwaukee entered the contest having lost nine of its last 14 games since acquiring Gary Payton while allowing 104.6 points per contest during that span.
"They were the Nets. They have a great flow offense," Bucks coach George Karl said. "We thought going into the game that maybe the zone would slow down their rhythm and the way they play. I think it was fairly effective. We played zone the whole fourth quarter."
"We threw a zone defense at them and gave them some trouble," Bucks guard Sam Cassell said. "I know the next time we play them that they will be ready for the zone."
Payton scored 23 points and outplayed friend and fellow Bay area native Jason Kidd to lead the Bucks, who moved one-half game ahead of Washington for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth.
"We had a good night. We played a little defense," Payton said. "It's about time that we started to play right. We were very active. This is only one game. We have to keep this up and get a couple more wins. Anybody could beat anybody on any given night."
Kidd also had a strong game with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists but he could not prevent the Nets from losing for the ninth time in their last 13 games. The star point guard committed five turnovers and managed just three points over the final 12 minutes.
"We've been very inconsistent of late and the turnovers are tough to take," Kidd said. "Everybody is trying to get the ball to the open guy. We're just not getting it there."
Kenyon Martin had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Nets, who made just 4-of-20 shots in the fourth quarter. Despite his big game, Martin also played careless at times as he turned the ball over seven times.
While the Nets were falling apart in the fourth quarter, the Bucks picked the right time to be at their best.
Toni Kukoc and Haislip opened the fourth with jumpers and Michael Redd had a fast-break dunk, making it 79-73 with 9:22 remaining.
Richard Jefferson scored on follow shot 26 seconds later for the Nets before the Bucks reeled off the next eight points to take control for good.
Haislip, who scored 12 points, made two free throws and had a dunk. Former Net Cassell drilled a 3-pointer, and New Jersey native Tim Thomas capped the surge with two free throws, pushing the lead to 88-75.
"Marcus Haislip gave us good energy off the bench," Karl said. "We were looking for someone to step up and he did."
Cassell finished with 22 points and Redd 18 as the Bucks made 11-of-19 shots in the fourth quarter. They shot 48 percent (39-of-82) overall and won despite being outrebounded, 51-37.
"We've been coming up short but tonight we executed what we needed to execute," Cassell said. "We played good defense down the stretch and won a game that we had to have. It's just that simple."
Cassell did most of his damage in the first half, when he scored 15 points to help the Bucks to a 54-47 lead.
Martin was even better, scoring 19 points while going 8-of-9 from the field before the break. He netted 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the opening period.
A turnaround jumper by Desmond Mason, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds, gave the Bucks a 62-58 lead early in the third quarter. The Nets answered with an 11-3 run to take the lead, but the game was tied entering the fourth.
Jefferson added 17 points and Kerry Kittles 11 for the Nets, who shot 40 percent (30-of-76).