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Oklahoma City Thunder late miscues help young Milwaukee Bucks seal a tight 98-94 victory

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The Thunder falter late as Russell Westbrook struggles throughout the second half

Bennett Berry

The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped a hard-fought contest to the home-standing Milwaukee Bucks, 98-94.

After holding a seemingly durable 15-point lead, Oklahoma City succumbed to the Bucks following poor late-game execution. Milwaukee put Oklahoma City on the ropes with a dominant 29-16 third quarter display, then finished the affair with a pair of made Malcom Brogdon free-throws as time expired.

Russell Westbrook led OKC with 30 points, yet was held to a dim 3-of-17 FGA during the second half. Meanwhile, for the unsteady Thunder, Steven Adams (20) and Victor Oladipo (18) worked hard to keep things close.

The victorious Milwaukee Bucks were led by the precocious superstar offerings of Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 10 rebs, 5 ast) while Jabari Parker’s 19 rounded out a balanced collective of five Bucks players to reach double-figure scoring.

Milwaukee (17-16) held a decisive 67-54 advantage in points in the paint, and second chance scoring.

Following a strong win over LAC, the Thunder (21-14) has now lost two of its last three contests. Meanwhile, the Bucks have won two of three.

Oklahoma City opened the contest with an impressive 13-4 burst, led by Steven Adams' quick eight. The visiting Thunder parlayed this momentum to a near-commanding 27-13 advantage prior to Milwaukee’s stop-gap 7-0 run. Grasping a tenuous lead, the emboldened Thunder reserves closed the quarter strong, as OKC carried a healthy 30-22 advantage into the second frame.

Each team had its share of peaks and valleys throughout quarter two. Behind Antetokounmpo’s (12) inspired play, Milwaukee slashed Oklahoma City's lead to 36-34. Although again, the Thunder, and Westbrook (11) immediately responded by keeping the plucky Bucks at arm's length. Following a mini-Milwaukee charge, Oklahoma City entered intermission ahead 56-50.

At the half, OKC’s ‘big three’ combined for 44 of the team’s 56 points. Westbrook led the way with 18, while Adams added 16, and Victor Oladipo 10. The cohesive Thunder shot 59% from the field, and 45% from deep.

Oklahoma City’s largest first-half lead sat at 15.

Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo’s 17 paced all scorers throughout the opening half. Greg Monroe’s nine spearheaded a slight 15-12 bench scoring edge for the Bucks. Milwaukee also enjoyed a 34-28 PITP margin; although the home-team never led during the opening two quarters.

As play resumed, behind a jolting surge, the Bucks would claim thier first lead with 4:28 remaining in the third frame. From that point, the contest’s balance of power alternated several times prior to Milwaukee closing the quarter on a decisive 10-3 run. Jabari Parker and Antetokounmpo combined for a robust 17 points. Conversely, the Thunder misfired to the somber tune of 4-of-18 FGA as Westbrook (0-of-8) struggled mightily.

Trailing 79-72 on the road, the desperate Thunder would scrap and claw back into the competitive fray. A Steven Adams reverse lay-in evened the score at 92 with 4:04 remaining. From that point, Oklahoma City capitalized upon a spate of Milwaukee turnovers before ironically suffering the game’s most emblematic series of miscues —thus forfeiting a coveted chance to tie or send the game to overtime.

As the clock struck zeros, Oklahoma City endured its first setback of 2017, 98-94.

With another win, Milwaukee now has momentum in the wide-open Eastern Conference.

The Thunder next play Wednesday night vs. Charlotte.