Thunder at Milwaukee Bucks Game Recap – March 6, 2016

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@okcthunder.com

MILWAUKEE – The Thunder was pushed against the ropes, as nearly every road team is at least once during the course of a game. With resolve and steadiness, the team course-corrected and made a crucial push to attain victory.

In a 104-96 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday afternoon, the Thunder had to stave off a huge 24-4 run late in the third quarter. Even after a Khris Middleton three-pointer that cut a 21-point down to just two at 84-82, the Thunder stayed calm and responded with a gradual 16-4 spurt over the next eight minutes of play. Head Coach Billy Donovan thought his team did a much better job of getting back to its own brand of basketball than it had in recent contests.

“One of the things I’ve talked to these guys about is in a normal NBA game, there’s about a 23-point swing either way,” Donovan said. “It’s going to happen. It’s very rare that you just go wire to wire and it’s easy.”

“I think our guys were good with saying, ‘Okay, they’re making a run, let’s respond,'” Donovan added. “They did a good job. Kevin and Russell in timeouts were really good. I thought our guys kept focus."

Thunder Highlights

There were great performances for the Thunder from Kevin Durant (32 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists) and Russell Westbrook (yet another triple-double – this time 15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds). Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams combined for 17 points and Kyle Singler had an impact with seven first half points.

Still, there were areas that the Thunder needs to clean up moving forward – particularly with regard to turnovers and defensive rebounding. While Donovan’s group dished out 27 assists, they also committed 22 turnovers that led to 30 Bucks points, many of which came during the late third quarter run. With 29 fast break points, the Bucks were able to score against a set defense far too many times for the Thunder’s liking due to those turnovers and long rebounds off of Thunder misses.

“We have to be more mindful. We have to be more careful. We have to be more disciplined,” Donovan said.

“We didn’t make shots at the end of the third and they got some run-outs, but we were solid all game,” Durant said. “We made some mistakes here and there but that’s just a part of the game.”

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Hot Out of the Gates

In a blink of an eye, the Thunder’s lead in the first quarter was 22-4 as a suffocating defensive effort that clogged the lane, forced the Bucks to play in traffic and caused general mayhem. After rattling off the game’s first six points on an Andre Roberson three-pointer, a Russell Westbrook to Steven Adams layup and a Durant free throw, the Thunder allowed the Bucks to score one of just two baskets over the first 7:55 of play. The Thunder was turning defensive stops into fast break opportunities or coming down the court with tempo and pace to generate wide open shots.

“We started the game really well,” center Enes Kanter said. “In the first half I thought we played Thunder basketball.”

The Thunder racked up 11 assists on its first 11 made baskets as it shot 57.9 percent and held Milwaukee to 3-for-23 shooting. One of the catalysts for the Thunder as it held the Bucks to a season-low 12 points in the first quarter while also scoring 32 itself was Kanter, who registered a double-double before halftime and scored 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting while racking up 12 rebounds. In pick-and-rolls with Westbrook, in the open court with Durant and on the offensive glass, Kanter was an absolute force.

“Whenever I’m out there, every time, I’m just trying to bring energy to the court and my team,” Kanter said.

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Moment of Silence

Prior to the singing of the national anthem, the Bucks held a moment of silence for Thunder part-owner Aubrey McClendon, who passed away on Wednesday. The PA announcer addressed the crowd with a moving tribute:

“The NBA family lost one of its visionary leaders when Oklahoma City Thunder part-owner Aubrey McClendon passed away at the age of 56. Aubrey was a true American entrepreneur and even more importantly, he was a warm and generous person who cared deeply about the OKC community and did so much to give back to it. We ask those who are able to please rise and observe a Moment of Silence for Aubrey McClendon and to offer condolences to his family and the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization.”

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By the Numbers

10 – Triple-doubles this season for Russell Westbrook after he scored 15 points on 3-for-7 shooting and racked up 11 assists and 10 rebounds

14-10 – Enes Kanter’s points and rebounds in the first half, as he finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds

37.8 – Shooting percentage the Thunder’s defense held the Bucks to on the night, including 3-for-19 from the three-point line

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The Last Word

“There were a lot of things that happened that were good to see us respond to. I thought our defense in the first half was terrific. They did a great job of helping each other.” – Head Coach Billy Donovan

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