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Thunder 109, Bucks 89: Thunder Beat the Bucks at Their Own Game, Shut Down Milwaukee's Backcourt (2011-2012 Game 57 Quick Recap)

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Forget the "Dunk Face". This is a pretty good "Pass Face".
Forget the "Dunk Face". This is a pretty good "Pass Face".

Yahoo! Sports Box Score:

What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?

The memory of this. As someone who suffered through years of Dunleavy on the Warriors, seeing Ibaka manhandle him was just awesome. But seriously, that victory was pretty relaxing. It was great to see the Thunder just outright dominate a game from start to finish against a playoff quality team. It was also nice to see the Thunder's offense flow from all players. It wasn't just Westbrook and Durant scoring well on their own. The faster pace of the game allowed Sefolosha's great transition play and defense to shine, and Perkins and Ibaka were able to get some great mis-matches down low.

What was tonight's turning point?

The Thunder had a huge run in the first, putting them up by 18 at its' peak. But the game pretty much ended when Larry Sanders elbowed Nick Collison in the face in the fourth quarter, knocking him out of the game, and giving the Thunder a free technical free throw which put them up by 20 with 9:18 to go.

What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?

Backcourt defense. Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and Carlos Delfino were all held below their season averages tonight. The help defense was tremendous in the paint, and the pressure easily got to them around the perimeter, forcing bad shots.

Going small seemed to help the Thunder too, igniting a 10-0 run late in the third quarter. Without the small lineup, the Bucks were actually making a decent run at the lead. Gooden and Ilyasova were getting all of the open shots they wanted, and they could easily draw pressure, freeing up open shots for other players. But when the Thunder went small, the lead was easily regained. The quicker bodies on defense allowed the Thunder to keep up with the Bucks' bigs on the perimeter and defend every shot.

What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?

No stat really stands out in particular, so I'll fall back on the old tradition of talking about shot selection. The Thunder were able to get good shots because they took advantage of their steals and rebounds, and all of their players have the ability to pass the ball. A solid play was always run in the halfcourt offense, and the Bucks defense just looked lazy when trying to keep up with a screen or rush to defend on the weak side. I honestly can't remember a single bad shot taken in the first quarter. Monta Ellis and Drew Gooden did a decent job for the Bucks, but overall they just didn't get to the spots they needed to get to. Threes were fired up too early, and Ellis and Jennings sometimes refused to work off of screens when driving into the paint. It was a travesty.

What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?

With the Thunder's win and the Spurs FINALLY losing tonight to the Jazz, they have re-taken the Western Conference lead after a couple of dark days. They hold the lead by a slim half game, with the Spurs set to re-challenge for the lead on Wednesday, when they take on the Lakers. The Thunder, meanwhile, will be taking on the Clippers.

Thunder Wonder: Thabo Sefolosha, for being a huge part of the early run and helping to close out the Bucks in the early fourth.

Thunder Down Under: Serge Ibaka, for recovering his offensive game in a big way.

Thunder Blunder: Daequan Cook, for a shooting 0fer.

Thunder Plunderer: Drew Gooden, for playing well during a couple of Bucks runs.

Next Game: Versus the Los Angeles Clippers, Wednesday, April 11th, 7 PM Central Daylight Time