NEW JERSEY 103, MILWAUKEE 101 -----------------------------
MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Rodney Rogers has to work on his free-throw shooting. He needs no work on hitting clutch shots.
After missing two free throws that would have given his team the lead with five seconds remaining, Rogers gathered a deflection and nailed a jumper with two seconds left, giving the New Jersey Nets a 103-101 triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks.
The victory returned home-court advantage to the Nets, who have a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series, and left Bucks coach George Karl in a rage over the officiating.
New Jersey, which led by as many as 19 points late in the first half, had a nine-point advantage with 5 1/2 minutes to play and a 101-94 edge with 3 1/2 left. But the Bucks scored the next seven points, tying it on a finger roll by Toni Kukoc with 27 seconds remaining.
After a timeout, Jason Kidd milked the clock until the 10-second mark, when he dribbled to the right, just outside the paint. He passed out of a double-team to the arc, where Rogers dribbled into the lane and was fouled by Anthony Mason.
Rogers missed his first attempt and, after his second rimmed out to the right, Kenyon Martin outmuscled Mason for the ball and sent it back to Rogers, who calmly swished a jumper from just inside the top of the key.
"When I shot it, I knew it was going in," Rogers said. "I was ready to get it. It happened so fast. When (Martin) hit it, I saw it going out, then I grabbed it. If I would've turned my head, I'd have missed it."
"It got tipped out deep," said Bucks forward Desmond Mason, who scored 16 points. "It was around the college three. He moved back after he shot the free throws. I took a step out but he hit the shot."
Following a timeout, the Bucks inbounded to Gary Payton, whose 3-point attempt hit the left side of the rim just before the buzzer.
Karl was furious that no foul was called on Martin while Anthony Mason was whistled for a "touch foul."
"It's sickening to see how we lost the game because it was a foul," Karl said. "Kenyon Martin just manhandles and throws. It's a foul. And here's a comparison. Rodney Rogers gets fouled on a touch foul, and then there's a wrestling foul ... I mean, it's incredible. To lose a playoff game on a (bleeping) referee call like that is a disgrace.
"Kenyon Martin gets away with murder pushing (Anthony) Mason underneath the basket... The discrepancy of those last two calls is a disgrace."
Kidd scored 26 points, Martin had 23, Rogers 18 and Kerry Kittles 16 for the Nets, who made 23 of their first 26 free-throw attempts before Rogers' misses.
Former Net Sam Cassell contributed 17 of his 24 points in the third quarter, Tim Thomas collected 22 and 11 rebounds and Payton finished with 21 points for the Bucks, who grabbed home-court advantage with a Game Two victory in New Jersey.
"We have to do a better job (defending at) the free-throw line," Cassell said. "I know it's just basketball, but this is playoff basketball - you can't allow someone to shoot a free throw and get the ball back.
Four technical fouls, including three on the Bucks, were called in the first quarter, which ended with the Nets ahead, 30-20. New Jersey stretched its lead to 52-33 on a pair of free throws by Kidd with 2:15 left in the half and led by 54-49 at the break.
"In a game like that, when you dig a hole for yourself, you have to step up and fight back," Desmond Mason said. "But we have to get past it."
Game Four is Saturday at Milwaukee.
"It is going to be another big game for us," Nets guard Lucious Harris said. "We just need someone to step up and it always seems like on this team we find someone."
"We will come out ready to play on Saturday and we will defeat this team," Bucks guard Michael Redd said. "I really have confidence in my team, and that's that."