Oklahoma City Defeats Milwaukee
Team wins second straight without Durant.
Oklahoma City Wins Second Straight without Durant, defeats Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE--The Oklahoma City Thunder handed the Bucks their third consecutive loss Saturday night, despite playing without injured team USA superstar Kevin Durant and starter Jeff Green.
Durant leads the league in scoring and combines with Green to average 40.2 points per game. However, guards Russell Westbrook and James Harden picked up the slack combining for 41 points in the 82-81 victory.
Westbrook hit two key free throws with 7.3 seconds to play to seal the game, after scoring 31 points Friday night’s win against the Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics. The Bucks got out to a small early lead, but a James Harden three-pointer gave Oklahoma City the lead for good with 8:43 left in the first quarter.
The loss dropped Milwaukee to 9th in the Eastern Conference, meaning that if the season ended today—they would be the odd team out of the playoffs. They trail the Cavaliers by a half game in the standings. The two teams meet on November 24th in Cleveland. Oklahoma City, the darlings of the Western Conference all off-season, sit comfortably in 4th place. Harden paced the Thunder with a season-high 23 points, nine rebounds, and four assists. His six three-point field goals doubled the total long-range output of the entire Bucks team.
"It felt good tonight. There were a couple that I passed up, and even the two that I missed felt good. So I'm just trying to be aggressive and ready to shoot,” said Harden.
The Thunder improved to 5-1 on the road this season and 9-4 overall while Milwaukee fell to 5-8 on the campaign. Bucks guard Brandon Jennings scored 25 points to lead all scorers, but missed two potential go-ahead looks in the last minute of regulation.
“The first one Andrew [Bogut] handed off to me for the three, it felt like it was good. Also the second [shot], it just rimmed in and out. I thought they were both good looks. I was just trying to make something happen,” said Jennings.
The Bucks only lead in the game was 4-2 in what was a physical, sloppy game. Milwaukee’s offense came largely on broken plays and second-chances buckets from Drew Gooden and Jennings. Gooden had a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds. Milwaukee had a season-low 11 assists which is indicative of their inability to score within the flow of their offense and knock down open shots.
Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut’s playing time was limited due to early foul trouble. Milwaukee does not have a back-up center on their roster and the Thunder capitalized on the lack of interior size throughout. Westbrook repeatedly penetrated and created open shots for teammates—in many instances finding Harden for an open three-pointer. Westbrook had a game-high six assists.
· The game marked the first time this season Milwaukee lost when Brandon Jennings scored at least 18 points.
· Dating back to Friday night’s loss in Philadelphia, the Bucks are shooting a combined 15 percent from three-point range, missing on 27 of 30 attempts.
· The numbers don’t lie--three-point shooting made the difference. Milwaukee’s field goal percentage: 37.2% Oklahoma City’s: 37% Free throws made; 20 apiece. Three-pointers field goals—Thunder 8, Bucks 3.
· The NBA all-star ballots were released Saturday. The Bucks representatives are Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette, and Andrew Bogut. The Thunder’s are Thabo Sefolosha, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Jeff Green. (hyperlink to NBA.com to vote online here called: “Vote”
Milwaukee entered play Saturday with the 2nd stingiest defense in the NBA, surrendering just 91.08 points per game. They were even better than usual on this night holding the Thunder to 82 points, but Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks’ team matched Milwaukee’s intensity with a solid defensive effort of their own. Westbrook made Jennings work for his shots, and Thabo Sefalosha held Bucks guard John Salmons to nine points in 35 minutes.
“I think if you are going to describe the effort tonight it was scrappy. You know you want to be known as a scrappy team a team that’s going to leave it on the floor I think both teams did. You know, unfortunately somebody has to lose,” said Brooks.
The Thunder and Bucks do not meet again until Wednesday, April 13, in Oklahoma City—the last game of the season for both squads. If the Eastern conference race remains as tight as it is today, that could be a game riddled with playoff implications.