After knocking off two of the NBA’s top teams in consecutive games, it was safe to say that Oklahoma City had officially turned a corner and the season was looking up. A six-game win streak is nice, but the Thunder wanted more. Or so it seemed.
Oklahoma City got off to a terribly slow start tonight, and it was evident early that Paul George was missed. The Bucks seemingly could not miss a shot, and the Thunder could not buy a bucket as Milwaukee jumped out to a 16-2 lead in the first five-and-a-half minutes of the game.
Russell Westbrook looked as if he might be able to trim the lead as he hit a couple of shots and pulled the Thunder to within 10 with 3:40 to go in the first quarter. However, it took the Bucks only a couple of minutes to push their lead to 22 at 33-11 with 1:35 left in the period. After shooting an abysmal 35% from the field, the Thunder was looking at an 18-38 deficit after twelve minutes of play.
The Thunder started the second quarter with an interesting lineup that featured Andre Roberson and four bench players. Surprisingly, they were able to put some solid possessions together, but by the time Russell Westbrook checked back into the game with 8:21 left in the first half, Oklahoma City still trailed 25-43. The Bucks would score again to push their lead to 20, but Westbrook helped the Thunder trim the deficit to 36-46 with under five minutes to play in the quarter.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, the Bucks would continue with their hot shooting, and despite Oklahoma City’s best efforts, they would enter the locker room at the half trailing 44-58.
The start to the second half looked like a brand new game in a way. Oklahoma City came out with a sense of urgency, and in under six minutes, the Thunder had turned a 14-point deficit into trailing by only six points, largely due to Russell Westbrook attacking the rim. Just a minute-and-a-half later, Josh Huestis hit a three-pointer to get Oklahoma City to within three.
Milwaukee would turn things back on and start hitting some shots, but Russell Westbrook was the highlight of the period as he threw down a monstrous dunk with a little over a minute left in the quarter.
Despite the Thunder’s best efforts to come back, they still trailed 67-73 with 12 minutes to play.
After an overall solid third quarter, the fourth could not have started any worse for Oklahoma City. The Thunder went from down by six to down by 14 in a little over three minutes, and the game started to look hopeless. Then, Jerami Grant shifted the momentum with a terrifying dunk. Out of nowhere, Russell Westbrook started to hit shots, and with 3:21 left in the game, Oklahoma City trailed 85-89.
Every time the Thunder would score, the Bucks would seemingly have an answer. The last few minutes of the game were a bit insane as Andre Roberson hit a three, Raymond Felton and Russell Westbrook combined to go 1/5 from the free throw line, and Steven Adams’s second of two free throw attempts was waived off due to a lane violation.
With 15 seconds left on the clock, Westbrook was able to cut the deficit to three. Steven Adams fouled Eric Bledsoe, who missed both free throw attempts, and with 10 seconds left, the Thunder called a timeout. What happened next cannot effectively be explained in words, so here’s the video:
After Russell Westbrook’s unreal shot from downtown to tie it up, the Bucks had five seconds to try to win the game, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo took the inbounds pass, he drove baseline and seemed to step out of bounds. The official missed the call, however, and the Greek Freak was able to dunk the ball, giving the Bucks a 2-point lead with a little over a second left to play. Westbrook had no choice but to throw up a full-court heave, which was just barely short, and the Thunder walked away with a 95-97 loss, and barely any explanation for the missed out of bounds call.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Awful Start, But Solid Adjustments: Despite the Thunder’s slow start, they made some pretty decent adjustments to finish out the game. After trailing by 22 in the first quarter and finishing the period down by 20, Oklahoma City outscored the Bucks in every quarter the rest of the way. In the first quarter, the Thunder scored only 18 points while shooting 35% from the field and turning the ball over five times. For the rest of the game, the Thunder scored at least 23 points per quarter, shot at least 47.5% per quarter, and turned the ball over only eight more times. If Oklahoma City had not gotten down by so much so early, the outcome would likely have been much different.
- Take Care of the Little Things: Despite making quality changes as the game progressed, there were still a number of areas where the Thunder have to continue to improve. Missing Paul George was a big deal on both ends of the floor, but that is no excuse for giving up 38 points in the first quarter and only scoring 18. Oklahoma City shot 12/21 (57%) from the free throw line and 7/25 (28%) from three. Milwaukee managed to grab 12 offensive rebounds and turn those into 16 second-chance points. These are all small issues where the Thunder has to seek improvement, and if not, then close games will be hard to win
- NBA Officials Need Accountability: The final play of the game was bad. The officials clearly missed Giannis Antetokounmpo stepping out of bounds, which should have nullified his game-winning bucket.
The missed call was bad, but the lack of an ability to review the missed call, and lack of over accountability, is just inexcusable. Antonio Daniels said it best on the Fox Sports Oklahoma Postgame Show:
In the end, the loss will stand, but no Last Two-Minute Report can makeup for the egregious missed call that ultimately decided the outcome of tonight’s game.
New Year’s Eve
Oklahoma City hosts the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday Night for a New Year’s Eve matchup. The Mavericks are 12-25, but they have won their last three games. The game will tip off at 6 PM and will be televised on FSOK. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Be sure to check out our latest episode of Thunder Things with the Thunder Guys.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and give us a like on Facebook.