The Milwaukee Bucks entered Friday’s meeting against the Oklahoma City Thunder with redemption on their mind, falling last just five days prior 114-109. The Bucks got their wish defeating the Thunder 98-85 to split the season-series, and split-ties with their losing streak. With the victory, the Bucks dug themselves out of a five-game losing streak helping set their minds back to title contention, still standing at 17-13 on the year. Oklahoma City dropped their third game in a row off Friday’s defeat and now waver around the 14th seed with an 11-18 record.
The first quarter was bludgeoned with slippages the whole way through. Both sides shot an identical 7-of-24 (29.4%) in the period, with Oklahoma City having the only advantage with four made threes to Milwaukee’s one. The referees reciprocated the units’ lackadaisical tone early, only needing to blow the whistle six times en route to the Thunder’s 20-16 lead.
An uptick of production was spiked in every man on the floor, with both sides upping their field goal percentages into the forties. The Bucks used reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to their advantage, forcing defenders into 1-on-1 situations baseline for easy layups and fouls. Overcompensation from Oklahoma City resulted in names such as Bobby Portis and Khris Middleton receiving easy dump offs inside. Though the Thunder got seven members in the scoring column, it was no match for the Bucks’ concentrated offense — as they took the lead 46-42 at half.
Oklahoma City seemed disoriented on the second half’s onset, clanking five straight shots to open things. Seeing the Thunder struggle, Milwaukee pounced all over the chance to make a seismic run, doing so successfully on a 14-0 spurt that put them up 18. The Thunder eased the bleeding with multiple trips to the line — however it took them almost eight full minutes to stick a field goal, laying a brick on their first twelve tries. Thankfully for the Blue and Orange, a 6-of-9 shooting surge in the final minutes ticked a 22 point deficit into a 16 point one, creating a seed of life.
The Thunder’s resiliency became full-fledged in quarter number four. Oklahoma City shrunk the gap down to 10 off an 8-2 run using menacing tactics inside to produce points. Defensively, all five members on the floor looked ready to face anybody, showcased when Diallo stuffed a Giannis layup attempt, immediately followed up with Theo Maledon denying a Brook Lopez close shot off the post. For a point in time, it genuinely looked like Oklahoma City would ease it’s way back into the game, cutting it to single digits, but a 9-3 Bucks tangent handed themselves a 14 point lead with just 3 minutes to go. The Thunder made a valiant effort to erase the lead late, it was to no avail though.
Oklahoma City managed to bottle up the Bucks in their season-low with 98 points, but their stars didn’t look of at all. Giannis Antetokounmpo ran through the Thunder defense to the tune of 29 points, getting 10 tries at the free throw line, accompanied by 19 rebounds and 7 assists. Khris Middleton looked much better in today’s performance then game one, notching 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting.
The Oklahoma City Thunder were restricted from the tip off, ending the night on a less than commendable 37% shooting from the field paired with 30% three-point percentage. Contrary to the norm, the Thunder couldn’t find a clear-cut number one option throughout the game, having no man score over 20 points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander always steps on the floor being called on to lead, but every time the 22-year-old stepped foot in the paint — he was clobbered. Shai finished the night with 16 points (4-of13 FG) and 5 assists, using his craftiness to get foul calls on wacky layups, that may not have been so wacky after all. Lu Dort led the team with 17 points but his 38% shooting (6-of-16 FG) made himself an abnormal candidate for the accolade. Despite the low conversion rate, the wing cemented himself as one of the only perimeter threats, hitting on 3-of-7 tries (42%.) Al Horford and Hamidou Diallo both exited Friday with 10 points using a respective 14 and 10 field goal tries to get there. Horford seemed extremely tense from downtown, going a suspect 2-of-9, while Diallo did an excellent job getting the line, but hardly capitalized — burying only 2-of-8 attempts. Darius Bazley had a much tougher time hanging with the reigning MVP (understandably) surfacing just 6 points and 5 rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (11-18) have their next shot to end their cold streak in the league’s most frigid team in the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-19) on Sunday, who have lost nine-straight contests.