NBA: Milwaukee tries to end losing streak in New Jersey (7:30 PM ET, MSG)

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NBA: Milwaukee tries to end losing streak in New Jersey (7:30 PM ET, MSG)


Richard Jefferson downplayed the importance of his first game against the New Jersey Nets since they traded him in the offseason, but it's hard to imagine he won't be feeling many emotions when he returns to the Izod Center for the first time as a visitor. Jefferson and the Milwaukee Bucks visit New Jersey on Tuesday, looking to win three straight for the second time this season.

This is the second time Jefferson is facing the Nets (21-27, 25-23 ATS), the team he spent the first seven years of his career with before being traded in the summer to Milwaukee (24-27, 29-20-2 ATS) for forwards Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. Jefferson scored 13 points on 3-of-15 shooting in his first meeting against them back on Jan. 9 in a 104-102 win.

Jefferson said the meeting was only important because of the standings, but he and former teammate Vince Carter shared laughs before the game. "I just tried to keep him in a good mood. Don't want to (tick) someone like that off," Jefferson said. "We don't get to see each other that often, so whenever you do, you've got to crack a few jokes."

Jefferson's return to the Izod Center will likely be more emotional. He left as New Jersey's second all-time leading scorer with 8,507 points, and played a part in leading the Nets to six straight playoff appearances from 2002-07, including trips to the NBA finals in 2002 and 2003.

This game also has obvious implications in the standings, since both teams are part of a crowded race for one of the last playoff spots in the East. Jefferson has additional motivation Tuesday as the Bucks look to win three straight for the second time this season. The Bucks are coming off a 110-107 win over Atlanta on Saturday. With the win, the Bucks improved to 2-2 since Michael Redd went down with a season-ending ACL and MCL tear in his left knee last week.

Charlie Villanueva scored 27 points and added seven rebounds and a season-high six assists while Jefferson and Ramon Sessions each had 20 points. Villanueva, who is averaging 15.2 points this season, has averaged 24.5 in the last eight games and 27.0 points in the last three.

"It was a big game for me," said Villanueva, who was 8-of-15 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. "I played a lot of minutes in yesterday's win. I just tried to follow up on that. I just got to keep it up and keep playing with the energy I have been playing with."

Despite the loss of Redd and frequently playing without center Andrew Bogut, who has suffered nagging injuries, the Bucks have remained one of the best bets in the NBA, ranking fourth in winning percentage at 59.2 percent. Milwaukee in spite of 10-19 road record is 16-11-2 ATS in visiting uniforms and will take on New Jersey who has had more than their share of problems at home.

The Nets return home after a brutal stretch that featured plenty of road games. Beginning with their trip to Milwaukee last month, they have dropped nine of 12, with eight of those games coming on the road, including losses in Boston, New Orleans and San Antonio.

New Jersey is coming off an 85-83 win over Philadelphia on Saturday, snapping a three-game losing streak. Brook Lopez scored 24 points and added 17 rebounds while Devin Harris scored 17 points. Carter finished with seven points, playing only two minutes in the fourth quarter after spraining his ankle. He said, however, that the injury wasn't serious and didn't expect to miss Tuesday's game.

"I thought those guys showed huge fight and grit," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "It goes to show, when you play a little defense, you give yourself a chance." Frank wishes his team would start playing better at home, where it has been a real struggle. New Jersey is 9-15 SU and ATS on the home hardwood, placing them among the worst in the NBA. They have been outscored by 4.2 points a game in Jersey and are 1-8 ATS in home games off an upset win as an underdog this season.

Despite their home failures, has the Nets as 4.5-point favorites with a total of 195. Milwaukee has been inferior for years and is curiously 2-13 ATS against teams outscored by their opponents by three points a game in the second half of the season. Having lost earlier to Milwaukee, the Nets are no sure thing with an 11-22 ATS mark in home games revenging a loss over the last two seasons.

The Nets previous nine opponents had averaged 102.0 points against them; however New Jersey is 15-7 UNDER after playing a road game this season. Milwaukee is down two starters, thus the total who appear an uncertainty unless you consider they are 12-2 UNDER in road games against Atlantic division foes since last year.

Jefferson will try to use the knowledge he had to help beat the Bucks five straight times in New Jersey (5-0 ATS), against the Nets, starting at 7:30 Eastern on MSG Network.

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