Box Score | Brew Hoop
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
The Thunder are an overwhelming team, but why did it take so long? This should have been a blow out from the first quarter on. The Thunder shot themselves in the foot multiple times throughout the game.
In the first quarter it was a lax defense that let the Bucks make runs of Milwaukee had runs of 7-0 and 9-0. In the second quarter it was a lack of aggression as the Thunder went 12 minutes between quarters before they got back to the free throw line. It wouldn't be a bad thing if they hadn't been in the bonus with nine minutes left in the first quarter.
The third had more of the same issues, with Milwaukee in the bonus halfway into the quarter, missing easy baskets (looking at you Kendrick Perkins), throwing the ball away, getting a shot click violation. They had seven turnovers in the quarter; until they ran away with it in the fourth.
If I sound like I'm nitpicking, I am. These are the semi-respectable teams that the Thunder have to crush (which they are more than capable of), if they want to insure that they'll make the playoffs.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder won?
It wasn't one thing, but more like a succession of things that culminated into an ultimately satisfying win at home.
Rebounding, Transition, and Free Throws
I understand that the Bucks were missing two valuable bigs in Ersan Ilyasova and Spaghetti Crew member (along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Larry Sanders) John Henson, but they got destroyed on the boards, 54-31. Those rebounds on the defensive end got Russell Westbrook and Co. out on the break for a lot of transition buckets.
The Thunder had 61 points (a season high), held a 25-10 rebounding advantage, and led 14-1 in fast break points at halftime. With the Bucks content to settle for jump shots, which I can't blame them - every dribble drive got pick-pocketed for even more fastbreak points, the Thunder hold a 25-3 point edge by the end of the game.
Rebounding also kept the modest nine-point lead that the Thunder attempted to fumble away in the middle quarters. Perkins himself had seven offensive rebounds, including five in the second. Durant certainly helped with a handle of passes that helped move the offense along.
The Bucks couldn't get anything inside which didn't help their rebounding efforts either, they missed four alley-oops and did absolutely nothing in transition defense, outside of fouling. Things blew open when the Thunder, who previously had missed 12 threes in a row, dropped in a few long range bombs to seal the deal.
It helps to get the opposing teams bigs in foul trouble early as well. The Bucks two best shot blockers were out of the game struggling with fouls throughout. Larry Sanders when out with two fouls around the 9:00 mark in the first, and Antetokounmpo went out with just about 7:00 left. Giannis everntually contributed, but Sanders played only 13 minutes, leaving Zaza Pachulia as their last line of defense.
Westbrook and Durant
Westbrook was a terror, particularly in the first half. He roasted Brandon Knight of the dribble, getting to the foul line over-and-over again. He was doing Westbrook-like things, all game, including this gem:
O.J. Mayo had no idea what hit him. He is always called the engine whenever the Thunder are spoken of, and he certainly was tonight. 15 trips to the free throw line, he set the tone for the Thunder to attack the paint relentlessly (it helps that your three pointers aren't falling either).
Durant was the perfect calm to Westbrook's storm. He did well to create off the bounce, like when the Bucks went into a zone at times. Milwaukee's zone gave the Thunder some issues, created some turnovers, and if the Thunder stayed shooting outside, this may have been a different game. Durant did enough in his limited minutes to stabilize the Thunder when they needed it.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, 28 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists, 12-15 FT; 18 first half points, and dunks raining down all over the place
Thunder Down Under: Kendrick Perkins, 5 points, 9 rebounds (7 offensive), he kept the Thunder afloat in the middle quarters (even if he missed way too many bunnies)
Thunder Blunder: Kendrick Perkins, because you can not possibly miss that many bunnies
Thunder Plunderer: Kevin Durant, 29 minutes, 23 points, 7 assists, 9 rebounds, 8-8 FT
Next: at home vs. Cleveland, Wednesday, 7 PM CST