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Thunder vs Bucks Preview: The ‘OKC 3’ vs Milwaukee’s ‘Greek Freak’

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Can’t pronounce Antetokounmpo? No worries, you won’t forget him. 

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder have faced some nice players this season. Jimmy Butler, Victor Oladipo, and Kris Porzingis are all quality competition, but the Milwaukee Buck’s Giannis Antetolounmpo (pronounced YAHN-iss ah-deh-toh-KOON-boh) is truly a monster and very likely one of the best talents the Thunder will face all season.

According to BasketballReference.com, Giannis (I’m not spelling that last name twice) leads the league in minutes played, 39.0, made field goals, 82, points per game, 34.7, PER, 36.3, win shares per 48 minutes, .349, BPM, 12.6, and value over replacement player, .9. The budding superstar is also averaging 63% from inside the arc, 10.7 rebounds, 5.5 assts, 2 steals and almost a block per game. The only "weakness" the 22 year old shows is 3-point shooting and he is hitting 33% of those.

Without doubt, the 6’11”, 222 lb Greek phenom who, by the way, lists at 4 different positions (PG, SG, SF, and PF) poses the toughest test the Thunder has faced this season....

...and if oft maligned Thunder defensive specialist, Andre Roberson, can somehow contain “The Greek Freak”, he may well silence his critics forever.

  • Venue: BMO Harris Bradley Center – Milwaukee, Wis
  • Date: 10/31/2017
  • 7 PM CDT

What to watch?

  • The Thunder’s defensive committee - Though his DRtg has held at last season’s 106, Roberson’s ORtg has dropped from 108 to 97 this year. However, when Coach Billy Donovan cut Robes minutes to a minuscule 9:55 at Minnesota on 10/27, the T-Wolves feasted on the Thunder defense to the tune of 119 points. The most minutes the Thunder’s perimeter defensive specialist has logged this season is 22 minutes and produces a paradox. The Buck’s best offensive weapon, Giannis Antetokounmpo, averages 39.1 minutes of court time.

Should Billy Donovan assign Roberson the task of guarding Antetokounmpo and let new acquired 2-way All-Star, Paul George, fill the gap, or should he assign George to the Buck’s best player from the jump?

  • Rebounding and Free Throws - The Thunder have seen their league leading 56.1 TRB numbers from a year ago dwindle to a middle of the pack, 52.8. Sixty rebounds against a depleted Bull squad and fifty-five per game in their last 3 is encouraging, but boards will remain a key stat going up against a Bucks team currently sitting dead last in the league at 44 per game. The “Greek Freak” is hard enough to stop once without having to reset and stop him a second time.
Los Angeles Lakers v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images

Though Roberson may be the league’s poster child for bad free throw shooting, he isn’t the only player in Thunder blue currently struggling at the stripe. Before posting a respectable 76.9% in their last outing, the Thunder’s average wallowed below the 70% line and sat at the bottom of the league. Attempts per game is another concern for Coach Donovan. Open jumpers are nice with the space created by 3 All-Stars on the floor simultaneously, but attacking the rim and possibly hanging a few early fouls on Antetokounmpo may prove vital against a Buck team that tends to play to the level of their opponent as 3 of their 4 wins are against teams with winning records.

  • Chemistry - They say that time on the road is valuable bonding time for a team and the Thunder will test that theory in their 3rd straight road game in 6 days. A win tonight, especially if comes with improved motion and consistent production from the starters, would be a nice considering the Thunder’s homecoming on Friday is against the Eastern Conference front-running Boston Celtics.

Going into the season, Thunder fans were aware that it would take time to smooth out the rough edges between 3 star players with little playing time together. However, three early division losses adds pressure to the team finding its stride as soon as possible.

  • The Bench - There was little doubt that replacing Semaj Christon with Raymond Felton would be a boon for a Thunder bench that has struggled for respect for a number of seasons, but the speed in which that boost has come has been a very pleasant surprise. In the 2017 playoffs, the Rockets outscored the Thunder bench by 58 points in just 46 minutes. Thus far, in a very young season against not so stellar opponents, according to NBA.com, the Thunder bench has the highest PIE rating, 59.2, the third best DRtg, 91.8 while almost all other advanced numbers are trending up as well.

The question on this writer’s mind is whether 7’ Steven Adams or the 6’1” Felt wears the larger sized game shorts.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the additions of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony in the off-season, the expectations for this Thunder team couldn’t be much higher. A road win against a play-off quality opponent tonight would not only get the Thunder over the .500 mark for the first time this season, it would also continue momentum toward living up to pre-season forecasts.

Poll

Who do you think will win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Thunder
    (134 votes)
  • 22%
    Celtics
    (38 votes)
172 votes total Vote Now