This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:30 p.m. Central Standard Time
Place: The Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisc.
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Fox Sports Net Wisconsin
Previous Meeting(s): None.
After shocking the Boston Celtics, handing them their first home loss of the season in surprising fashion on national television, Russell Westbrook and company pack up and book it to Milwaukee for a road date tonight with the slipping Bucks.
The Thunder come into this game looking like the Houston Rockets in how the injuries keep seeming to pile up: Kevin Durant and Jeff Green are still questionable tonight with sprained ankles. Nenad Krstic also left the game against the Celtics with some kind of leg injury, however he is still expected to start.
They now have to contend with a Bucks team that, despite their 5-7 record and last night's 90-79 shellacking at the hands of the woeful Philadelphia 76ers, has the league's 2nd ranked defense and are looking to make tonight their 7th consecutive victory against the Thunder inside the walls of the Bradley Center.
After the Jump: The Bucks Uneven Play, Thunder Turnovers, and Predictions!
I approach this game with a bit of caution though. Milwaukee didn't earn that 2nd defensive ranking by sitting around and playing with their laces, they earned it by forcing turnovers through tight defense and a penchant for going for the steal, and turnovers have been a bit of a sore spot for the Thunder this season. Amongst starters, Russell Westbrook and Durant are ranked 5th and 6th respectively in turnovers per game (3.9, 3.8).
The Bucks, despite their lockdown defense, is losing games because they can't seem to find an offensive spark. Star center Andrew Bogut, coming back from injury this year, is averaging 4 fewer shots from the post this season (although he is shooting nearly 70% from the rim), and the team's assist ratio is down as well. Last night's whipping in Philly also saw the Beertown Boys go 0/12 from beyond the arc, with only 46% shooting in the paint.
Keep an eye on starters Drew Gooden and Brandon Jennings for the Bucks, both are inconsistant offensively but still average 10-15 points a game. Coming off the bench is Corey Maggette, a guard who seems to think his body is expendable. A big fan of driving the lane (with the fouls and the injuries to prove it), he led the Bucks last night with 20 points.
Overall, I'm looking at a low scoring affair. Look for Durant and Green to likely sit out again, giving the start to James Harden and Serge Ibaka again. The Thunder's unstoppable (offensive) force will meet with the Bucks immovable (defensive) object, and I would be surprised to see a huge lead open up either way, though given the Bucks penchant for improved play in Milwaukee, look for this to be closer than the Boston matchup. Don't let their performance against the 76ers fool you, Milwaukee has owned the Thunder at home for a long time, and in my mind, it really can go either way.
I'm picking the Thunder to win, though, and my reasoning is simple: November 20 is the first day of deer season for gun hunters.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 81, Milwaukee 79