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The NCAA Tournament parallel Nets see in final playoff push

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The Nets are going out of the frying pan and into the open flames. After beating the Celtics on Saturday, they’ll face the league-leading Bucks on Monday.

“It’s important we recover our legs and obviously get ready for the best team in the NBA so far this year record-wise,” coach Kenny Atkinson said.

“It’s almost like we’ve got to pull some NCAA upsets. We’ve got to beat some teams we’re not supposed to, plain and simple. … But they’ve done it all year. They’ve come out and beat teams that were favored. We’ve got to do it again.”

It remains to be seen if they’ll get a break against the Bucks like they did against the Celtics. They didn’t have to face Kyrie Irving or Al Horford on Saturday, and they could get away without playing versus Giannis Antetokounmpo on Monday.

The Bucks will be playing the second night of a back-to-back that saw them go overtime Sunday in Atlanta, albeit without four starters. Antetokounmpo aggravated his injured ankle on Thursday and didn’t play against the Hawks.

“It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve got Milwaukee, the best team in the NBA, coming in here Monday,” Jared Dudley said. “Good thing they’re on a back-to-back, so that helps us. But we still have to come out and play the right way.”

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters Sunday that Antetokounmpo would be reevaluated before Monday’s game and there’s a good chance the MVP candidate plays on their three-game trip that ends Thursday in Philadelphia.

“Prayers for him. But him sitting out, or him missing a game, would be huge for us. That’s something we can try to capitalize on,” D’Angelo Russell said. “But at the end of the day every game is going to come down to the wire. At this point teams are scratching for wins. They’re the best team in the league, best record in the league. I’m not sure what they’ll do, but we’ve just got to focus on us now.”

With the Nets’ cushion on Orlando just a single game for the last playoff spot, they can’t afford to assume the Greek Freak will sit or that the Bucks — with a three-game edge on Toronto for the NBA’s best record — won’t go all-out to win.

“We can’t worry about that. We can’t worry about Giannis. All we can worry about is controlling [us]. Just try to come in and get a win,” DeMarre Carroll said. “We need to prepare like he’s playing. We can’t come in and prepare like he’s not. That’s not the type of team we want to be. We want to prepare for the best like he’s on the court.”


Rodions Kurucs (right knee contusion) is doubtful for Monday, while Allen Crabbe (sore right knee) is out. … Ex-Net Mitch Creek inked a 10-day deal in Minnesota.

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