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Thunder desperately need win at the Bucks

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With the Thunder barely at half-strength, they'll need to muster all their might to take a very winnable game at the Bucks.

With speed like Ish Smith's, it's gotta be the shoes.
With speed like Ish Smith's, it's gotta be the shoes.
William Bennett Berry
2014-15 NBA Season Game 8
(Won 1)

(Won 1)
November 11th, 2014
Bank of Montreal Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, Wisk
7:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Fox Sports Network Wisconsin
Injury Report: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Perry Jones III, Mitch McGaryAnthony Morrow,  Andre RobersonGrant Jerrett (Out), Johnny O'Bryant, Damien Inglis (Out)
Previous Matchups: Jan 11 (W 101-85), Mar 30 (W 109-99)
Probable Starters
Reggie Jackson PG Brandon Knight
Jeremy Lamb SG Jared Dudley
Lance Thomas SF Ersan Ilyasova
Serge Ibaka PF Jabari Parker
Steven Adams C Larry Sanders

Out of the ashes of a catastrophically bad team last year, the Milwaukee Bucks of this year have managed to make a name for themselves on the defensive end. A healthy roster has certainly helped their cause, as the bloggers over at BrewHoop get todebate a variety of lineup options.

But it wasn't just one year ago that injuries decimated the Bucks and put them in a situation very similar to the one the Thunder are in now. Of course, the Bucks roster last year doesn't have the talent level that this year's Thunder roster does. Nevertheless, with still only 9 active players on the bench going into tonight, Scott Brooks will have his work cut out for him.

The good news for the Thunder is that the Bucks are going to concentrate on defending the rim and the three. That's where the Bucks thrive, and they definitely also benefit from the extra steals and blocks that the activity in those areas provides. That's good news for OKC because that means the Bucks are going to give up the mid-range shot. The Thunder have relied heavily upon Serge Ibaka and Lance Thomas to score in that area over the past few games, so this should be a good opportunity for those players to shine.

Another advantage in the Thunder's favor is the odd composition of the Bucks. Before the Bucks were sold last year, they were run as small-market teams were run 30 years ago, and foolishly tried to win every year. This led to them overpaying role players to come to town, some of which are still on contract. Now that the Bucks have been sold, the team is a bit more sensible. They're building around some young talents while trying to figure out what to do with their logjam of veterans. The result is a team that doesn't know what to do in crunch time, and can often fall victim to bad mistakes that give up big runs.

A few games ago, I might have worried that the Thunder would cave to the same lack of leadership. But over the past couple of matches, Reggie Jackson and Sebastian Telfair have emerged as the vocal leaders of their respective units. Aside from a few plays designed specifically for Serge Ibaka, both Jackson and Telfair are generally relaid upon to create and make tough shots for their respective units.

In terms of matchups, it will definitely be interesting to see Jabari Parker go head-to-head with Serge Ibaka. I think that Ibaka will probably have the scoring edge, and overall be more effective. But Parker has a lot of potential, and there are things I've seen him do on offense that Ibaka couldn't possibly keep up with. Hopefully Parker's mobility won't be a detriment to Ibaka's game.

On the Thunder's side of things, make sure to keep an eye on Ish Smith. He's only getting spot minutes as a third string PG (really fifth-string), but Smith has still managed to impress. His speed is like nothing else, and Smith can definitely hit some tough floaters with ease. A lack of size and shot definitely limits his game, but Ish does well what Ish does well, and any extra offense on this team is a blessing.

Anyway, this game should go down to the wire. Both teams will generate turnovers and see time in transition, but I'm also expecting periods with lots of slow half-court offense and plenty of fouls. Since both clubs suffer from poor ballhandlers, the coaches like to avoid turnovers wherever possible. Thus, there will be times when each team needs to slow it down and work for a good shot. Both the Bucks and the Thunder have serious flaws, so I could see either team emerging victorious. I'm betting on the Thunder because I think Reggie Jackson is better than every player on their roster right now.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 94, Milwaukee Bucks 89.

What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!