Thunder Fights Back But Falls to Bucks

The Oklahoma City Thunder (4-6) came back from the depths to nearly defeat the Milwaukee Bucks (7-3), but the rally was rendered incomplete, and it was Milwaukee who came out on top 121-119.

The Rundown

The Thunder got off to a cold start shooting the ball, but the defense was solid as Milwaukee could not knock down a shot either. Despite starting off slowly, OKC’s defense created opportunities for the offense, and a 9-0 run to end the first quarter gave the Thunder a 24-21 lead.

OKC kept up the intensity in the second quarter, and the shots finally started to fall. Mike Muscala, who started the season off shooting almost exclusively bricks, got hot as he finished the first half 4-of-7 (57.1%) from three. At halftime, the Thunder led 56-50.

The third quarter struggles continued tonight for the Thunder. OKC pushed the lead to 9 just a little over a minute into the second half, but Giannis Antetokounmpo caught fire, and the Bucks answered with a 20-1 run to take a 74-64 lead midway through the period. The Thunder was able to pull it back within 2 before the end of the quarter, but Milwaukee ended on a 7-2 run to take an 87-80 lead into the final frame.

The ugly play from the third quarter carried over to the fourth, and the Thunder just could not get back into the game. The Bucks reached their largest lead of the night at 100-87 midway through the period, but then OKC went on a 10-2 run to make it a 5-point game with a little over 5 minutes to go.

Milwaukee was able to answer once again, and with 2:04 to go, the Bucks led by 11. The game was all but over, and then out of nowhere, the Thunder was able to go on a 10-2 run. Down by 3 with 33 seconds to play, Danilo Gallinari put up a three while fading away, and it miraculously went in to make it 114-114.

Brook Lopez hit a 3 on the very next player, however, and the Thunder was unable to answer. At the final buzzer, it was Milwaukee on top 121-119.

Same Stuff, Different Day

It’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but despite another loss, the Thunder can compete with anybody on any given night, and they are a lot of fun to watch while doing it.

Despite holding a 6-point lead at halftime, it was yet another third quarter meltdown that ended up hurting OKC in the long run. The fact that the Thunder was able to lead by 9, then trail by 13, and then tie it all up with half a minute to play is incredible, and against one of the league’s best while at it.

Losing sucks, but it’s hard to complain as a fan when this team continues to compete night in and night out, and even when it looks like it’s time to pack it up, they keep fighting and put themselves in a position to win.

Who’s the Closer?

Perhaps the Thunder’s problem with end-game situations is the lack of clarity on who’s taking the final shot. Tonight, it was a mixed bag of Dennis Schröder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari to the rescue. While it’s not a bad thing that there are so many contributors, there is going to come a day where OKC will need a clear leader.

For the second night in a row, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to find his shot at times, but he’s pretty clearly the future of the franchise. With that in mind, Shai needs to be the guy making the decisions in the final seconds of the game. Whether that’s passing off to an open Gallinari for a 3 or dishing it to someone cutting to the basket, I don’t know, but if we need a bucket, he needs to be the guy making the call.

By the Numbers

  • 7: Number of Thunder players to score in double digits
  • 31: Number of assists for the Thunder, a season-high and the second consecutive night of at least 30
  • 17: Number of made threes by the Thunder, a season-high
  • 42: Number of attempted threes by the Thunder, also a season-high
  • 13: Rebound differential by the Bucks over the Thunder
  • 22: Number of turnovers for the Bucks, a season-high
  • 35: Number of points scored by Giannis Antetokounmpo, a game-high for all players

Thunder Player of the Game

Dennis Schröder earns Thunder Player of the game honors not just because of his team-high 25 points, but because of his efficiency throughout the game. Schröder shot 9-for-12 (75.0%) from the field, including 3-of-5 (60.0%) from three, while pulling down 6 rebounds, handing out 5 assists, and grabbing 3 steals. He did have 4 turnovers, but if it was not for his 8 points in the last 3 minutes of the game, OKC would not have even had a chance to win.

Next Stop: Indiana

Next up for the Thunder is a matchup with the Indiana Pacers (6-4) in Indianapolis on Tuesday night. The Pacers are still missing former Thunder player Victor Oladipo due to injury, but new addition Malcolm Brogdon has been solid so far this season.

Tip-off is set for 6 PM CT, and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.

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