A Meetup in Milwaukee for Rematch With the Bucks
Date: Friday, Feb. 19, 2021
Tip-Off Time: 7 p.m. CT
Television: Fox Sports Oklahoma
Radio: 98.1 FM WWLS the Sports Animal and the Thunder Radio Network
After a brief trip to snowy Memphis on the second night of a back-to-back, the Thunder travels to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks for the second time in six days. Since the Thunder’s last meetup with Milwaukee on Valentine’s Day, OKC has put up battles against the high-scoring offenses of Portland and Memphis, but fell in both contests in the final quarter.
Since the last meeting the Thunder also welcomed its primary ball handlers in Théo Maledon and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander back into the lineup. In his first game back on Wednesday, Gilgeous-Alexander picked up right where he left off, leading the team in scoring with 22 points while dishing out a team-high six assists.
In his absence, the Thunder generated offense by committee and in doing so, recorded season-highs in assists on multiple occasions, one of which was in the Thunder’s meeting with the Bucks where the group dished out 32 assists. Thunder big man Al Horford led the way with a season-high nine assists, but it was Justin Jackson who knocked down the dagger 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to secure the Thunder’s victory. Jackson finished with a game-high and season-high 22 points.
Friday’s matchup will be the second night of a back-to-back for the Bucks who are in the midst of its season-long eight game home stand. Milwaukee’s loss to the Thunder on Sunday was its third in a series of four straight losses – the longest losing spell under the leadership of Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer.
However, the uncharacteristic stream of losses has not impacted their offensive numbers which still rank among the top in the league. The Bucks sit second in points per game (120.5) and field goal percentage (49.1) while also ranking third in 3-point percentage (39.8) and ninth in points in the paint (48.0). Led by reigning two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who averages 28.2 points and 11.4 rebounds per game and Khris Middleton who chips in 20.3 points on 51.0 percent shooting from the field, the Bucks will be looking to break its dry spell on its home floor.
Despite its loss to the Thunder on Sunday, the Bucks were led offensively by The Greek Freak, who registered a triple-double with a game-high 24 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Thunder rotated defenders on Antetokounmpo between Al Horford and Isaiah Roby. Regardless of the primary defender, it was the second line of defense that played the biggest factor in defending Giannis and that help-side defense will once again be critical on Friday as Milwaukee also touts the sharp-shooting presence of Khris Middleton and Donte DiVincenzo on the perimeter.
Stat to Watch
Fast-Break Points — Milwaukee leads the NBA in fast-break points per game with an average of 16.0 per night. In its last meetup, the Thunder held the Bucks to just 10 total fast-break points and only four in the first half of the game. However, in OKC’s last game against Memphis (who ranks fourth in this category), the team gave up 16 fast-break points due to its 18 turnovers.
As the Thunder learned on Wednesday, ball security is paramount against a team who looks to take advantage of open floor situations. This will be an area that the Thunder will look to limit Milwaukee on Friday.
Over the last two contests, the Thunder’s reserves have provided a much-needed boost to the Thunder’s offense throughout the game. Against Portland and Memphis, OKC’s bench has averaged 41.5 points while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from the 3-point line.
It has been different contributors off the bench for the Thunder each night. For instance, against Portland Hamidou Diallo led the Thunder reserves with 17 points, marking his 12th game this season with 15 or more points. Isaiah Roby also stepped in for the reserve group by notching a 10-point, 11 rebound double-double. In OKC’s last game against Memphis, it was Mike Muscala leading the bench group with 21 points while cashing in five made 3-pointers.