MILWAUKEE -- Vince Carter kept shooting. When it came down to the end, he deferred.
Jarvis Hayes hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer off a pass from Carter with 18 seconds left and rookie Brook Lopez scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lift the New Jersey Nets to a 99-95 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
With the Nets needing wins, the bench provided a bigger-than-expected boost after Carter and Devin Harris struggled, going a combined 8-for-34 from the field. But both provided offense down the stretch.
Carter, who had 15 points, hit a 3-pointer with the Nets trailing 84-76 with 4:02 to play and Harris' free throws in the final 7.9 seconds sealed it.
"Better late than never," Carter said. "My mentality is to just to keep going, keep shooting. Never be afraid to shoot the ball. They have a lot of confidence in me."
That's because the Nets are confident in their savvy veteran to make the right play. It was New Jersey's third win in the last four games and the Nets are a half-game behind Milwaukee for eighth in the Eastern Conference.
New Jersey started 2-for-18 from 3-point range, but the Nets hit seven of their final nine beyond the arc.
"We hunkered down," Hayes said. "Milwaukee is one of the teams were fighting for the last playoff spot. I guess we wanted it more than they did."
Carter sparked the final 3-point barrage after he and Hayes hit back-to-back 3s to make it 84-82. Keyon Dooling then hit consecutive 3-pointers less than a minute later to give New Jersey a 90-86 lead with 1:44 left.
"They caught fire. That's what great teams do," said Ramon Sessions, who had 19 points for the Bucks. "They got it together in the second half and start making shots."
Milwaukee tied it at 90-all with 31 seconds to play after a layup by Sessions and a jumper by Charlie Villanueva, who had 24 points and 15 rebounds. But Carter drove around Bucks rookie Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and found Hayes open in the corner for the Nets' final 3-pointer, making it 93-90.
"I was just trying to get to the paint, if I had a layup or a shot, take it, if not, just find the open man," Carter said. "They did a great job of just collapsing the paint and not really giving easy layup."
Bucks forward Richard Jefferson, who was traded from New Jersey on draft day for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons, said the Nets finally made them pay.
"We tried to take away the paint," Jefferson said. "We made them take contested threes and at the end of the game they hit them."
The Nets' bench scored 40 points, including 13 points each by Hayes and Ryan Anderson and 12 by Dooling.
"At the time in the season where we need wins, we could've easily folded. I'm just glad to see guys really coming together," Carter said.
Harris added four free throws and Lopez hit two in the final 7.9 seconds to seal the win after the Nets kept fouling so that Milwaukee couldn't take a potential game-tying 3-pointer.
"When it's not going (offensively), you've got to find other ways to affect the game," Harris said.
Both teams have a tough road ahead with matchups against the Eastern Conference's elite on Wednesday. The Bucks are at Cleveland while New Jersey is at home versus Boston.
"Every win and loss right now has added significance," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.
Harris left for the locker room early in the first quarter but returned. He said he was struggling with his breathing. He said he plans to see a doctor Wednesday. ... Bucks G Michael Redd had surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee he tore on Jan. 24 in a win against Sacramento. Redd will spend the next six months rehabilitating and is expected to be ready for training camp next season. ... Skiles said C Andrew Bogut is beginning his transition from complete rest to some basketball activities. Bogut, who has a stress fracture in his back, will be re-evaluated in four weeks.