MILWAUKEE • Would the Brooklyn Nets have won at the Milwaukee Bucks had Most Valuable Player front runner Giannis Antetokounmpo, who sat out with a calf injury, played?
No. But, with just two regular-season games left to play and a play-off spot within touching distance, they will take any advantage they can get - even if it means they might have to meet the East's top seeds again in the first round.
Joe Harris sank the go-ahead three-pointer with 84 seconds left, as the Nets edged the hard-fought National Basketball Association contest 133-128 on Saturday, moving them into sixth position in the East.
They are level with the seventh-placed Orlando Magic, half a game ahead of the Detroit Pistons, who occupy the eighth and final play-off place, and 11/2 games in front of the Miami Heat, who are ninth.
But, while they own the tiebreakers against the Pistons and the Magic, D'Angelo Russell, who paced the visitors with 25 points, urged his teammates to take it "one game at a time".
The All-Star guard told ESPN: "Every game is big. We have to treat it like it's the last one. We can't get comfortable. It's too late."
Conceding that they pulled off the upset only because of Antetokounmpo's absence, he also told the New York Post: "They didn't have Giannis. That was the difference. I'm not going to put it on anything else.
"When you've got a player like Giannis out there, for any team, it's going to be different."
Nets centre Jared Dudley, who contributed 16 points, agreed with his teammate's assertion that "for us, it's win or go home, literally".
He added: "I know we look at Miami losing (they are on a three-game skid), this and that, but we want to control our own fate."
His coach Kenny Atkinson also admitted the victory did not have any bearing on whether the Nets are in a position to claim big scalps consistently as it was "in its own little context here".
While Milwaukee have already clinched the best record in the league, Eric Bledsoe, who led all scorers with 33 points, disagreed with the analysts who feel the hosts (59-21) have little to play for until the post-season, insisting they are still gunning for the 60-win mark.
"We want to achieve it but, at the same time, we want to play the right way," the guard said. "I thought we did a great job of doing that tonight. It was a big game for them. So we've just got to move on."
Separately, J.J. Redick scored 23 points to help the Philadelphia 76ers post a 116-96 road victory over the Chicago Bulls.
With the win, the Sixers, who have now reached the 50-victory mark for the second straight season, moved two games ahead of the Boston Celtics with two games to play in the battle for the third seed in the East.