Bucks can't hold off Oklahoma City
MILWAUKEE – Just when it looked like the Milwaukee Bucks were about to overcome a depleted Oklahoma City Thunder team, the Thunder found production from an unlikely source.
The Thunder handed the Bucks their third straight loss at the Bradley Center Saturday night, 82-81 behind a barrage of three pointers from James Harden and some clutch free throws down the stretch.
Kevin Durant, the face of the Oklahoma City franchise and leading scorer in the NBA, sat out for the second consecutive night with a sprained ankle as he watched his team win for the second time in as many nights.
Swingman Jeff Green was also out with a sprained ankle. Green is third in scoring for the Thunder, averaging 18.2 points per game.
Big Win for Short Handed Oklahoma City
The spark for the Thunder came from second year player, James Harden, who was drafted third overall in the 2009 NBA Draft. Harden scored 23 points and shot 6 for 8 on three point field goals. It was Harden’s second career NBA start.
“It shows we have a lot of heart,” Harden said. “Even though Kevin and Jeff are out, it had to bring out teammates that much closer together, really lock in on our defensive end because it’s going to be tough.”
Harden came into the game averaging 7.6 point per game. All of his made field goals were from three point range.
Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks was proud of his team’s scrappy play in the second game in a back-to-back.
“I think if you’re going to describe the effort tonight it was scrappy,” Brooks said. “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. Unfortunately someone has to lose and both teams were scrappy and leaving it on the floor and that’s what it’s about.”
Tough Loss for a Struggling Bucks Team
For the Bucks, it was their third straight loss in what has been a slow start to the season.
“We know it’s going to be a tough week. But maybe that will wake us up and start playing to our ability because I think we came out lackadaisical against Philly, we came out lackadaisical again tonight and they both got us.”
Bucks coach Scott Skiles is not worried about his team’s intensity, but rather his team’s lack of execution.
“We had good intensity in the second half; we had good intensity,” Skiles said. We had trouble getting the ball into Bogues [Andrew Bogut]; we had trouble entering into the offense some. Our angles and execution still aren’t where they need to be.”
The Bucks trailed 5-4 at the 8:43 mark in the first quarter and never recovered.
After trailing by 10 at halftime and six at the end of the third quarter, the Bucks continued to make runs in the fourth quarter only to be silenced by Oklahoma City.
Leading by three with 6:11 to play in the game, Thabo Sefolosha stole a bad pass from Brandon Jennings, converting it into a lay-up for two of his 10 points.
Following a Bucks timeout, John Salmons converted on two free throws and Brandon Jennings made a 10-foot jumper to bring the Bucks back within one.
After a few defensive stops by both teams, Russell Westbrook hit a two point jumper to give the Thunder a three point advantage.
With 2:32 remaining in the game, Jennings hit a running lay-up that bounced around the rim to bring the Bucks back within one, forcing the Thunder to call a timeout.
But coming out of the timeout it was Harden again, hitting a clutch three-pointer and pointing towards the sky in celebration, giving the Thunder a four point lead.
Russell Westbrook fouled Brandon Jennings on a three point attempt on the ensuing possession and Jennings made all three free throws, brining the Bucks back within one and the Bradley Center crowd of 16,975 to its feet with 1:52 to play.
After a blocked shot by Andrew Bogut, Jennings missed a jump shot and after the Bucks secured the offensive rebound, John Salmons threw the ball away coming out of the timeout.
From there it was a foul and chase game for the Bucks as Westbrook hit all four of his free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal the victory.