After the huge win over the Bulls in Chicago on Saturday, questions came up concerning whether or not the Thunder defense was actually that good or are the Bulls that bad? Oklahoma City came into tonight’s game with an opportunity to test themselves against one of the better offenses in the NBA. Coming into the matchup, Milwaukee ranked second in field goal percentage (49.3%), sixth in three-point percentage (38.4%), and second in points in the paint per game (49.3). The Thunder were up to the challenge.
Oklahoma City trailed Milwaukee 4-8 early in the game as Giannis Antetokounmpo handed out two assists and scored four points quicker than the Thunder defense knew what had hit them. Then, all of a sudden, the offense got cooking and the defense locked in. Oklahoma City ran went on a 16-0 run led by a trio of Steven Adams dunks and some nice shots from Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The Thunder would finish the quarter strong with a 31-23 lead.
Oklahoma City continued its domination in the second quarter, but they were helped when Antetokounmpo picked up his third foul just a minute and a half into the period. The Thunder would spend the first nine minutes of the quarter going on a 25-9 run before Milwaukee would go on a 10-4 run of their own to end the quarter. Four Thunder starters (Russell Westbrook, George, Anthony, and Adams) would score in double figures giving Oklahoma City a 60-42 lead at the half.
Milwaukee desperately needed to get something going to start the second half if they wanted to have any chance of coming back, but Oklahoma City was not about to let that happen as they kept the pressure on and the lead trending upward. Andre Roberson had a particularly solid quarter defending Antetokounmpo, and he also scored nine points before subbing out around the four minute mark. Antetokounmpo would score 12 points in those remaining four minutes, but after three quarters, the Thunder led 85-64.
The Thunder’s bench, led by Jerami Grant’s 11 points in the period, would take care of the fourth quarter for Oklahoma City as the Thunder would lead by as many as 28. Despite an effort by the Bucks to cut into the lead, Oklahoma City would come out on top 110-91.
3 Quick Thoughts
- The Defense Will Lead the Way: For the second consecutive game, the Thunder defense was dominant, and it was all the difference. Despite only forcing the Bucks into 14 turnovers and tallying six steals and three blocks, well below season averages, the Thunder held Milwaukee to only 91 points on 42.1% shooting from the field and 30% shooting from three. As long as the defense continues to play with this level of intensity, the Thunder are virtually unbeatable because with an offense that is so powerful with so many options, points are going to come from somewhere.
- The Three Ball is Improving: Oklahoma City had their best three-point shooting of the season, beating out their performance on Saturday against the Bulls, as went 12-28 (42.9%) from deep. Paul George led the way from three shooting 4-8, and other notables were Patrick Patterson and Alex Abrines both going 2-2. After ranking dead last in three-point shooting a season ago, the Thunder three ball has improved considerably, and they’re only going to get better as chemistry continues to develop on the floor.
- Free Throw Shooting is Trending Upward: The Thunder struggled from the free throw line last season, and it looked as if nothing had changed to start the season as Oklahoma City was so far at the bottom of the league it was embarrassing. The Thunder didn’t even break 70% from the line in three of their first four games. The charity stripe accuracy seems to be trending upward, however, as Oklahoma City shot 85.7% tonight, marking the second time in three games that the Thunder has shot over 85%. Even Andre Roberson made both of his attempts. Figuring this out now is obviously the better option, but they need to get and stay consistent.
Back at Home
Oklahoma City went 2-1 on their three-game road trip, and now they are finally headed home as the Thunder will host the Boston Celtics on Friday. Tip-off is at 8:30 PM CT and will be televised on ESPN and FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM the Sports Animal.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.