On December 29th, the Thunder jumped out to an early lead on the Bucks, only to give away the lead as the Bucks fought back at the end of third quarter. For a number of minutes, the game remained close until the Thunder closed out Milwaukee in a 131-123 victory.
The teams' second meeting played out in almost the exact same way on Sunday except slightly more defense was played and the Bucks kept it close throughout a majority of the fourth quarter. Ultimately though, they weren't able to get over the hump, falling 104-96 despite another monster triple-double from Giannis Antetokounmpo (26 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, four blocks, three steals) and 26 points from Jabari Parker.
The Bucks scored just 12 points in the first quarter, their third fewest in a single quarter this season, while the Thunder put up 34 points and took a huge lead. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant attempted just one field goal in the first quarter combined, but still managed to make an impact with five assists for Westbrook and six assists for Durant. The lid was taken off the basket in the second quarter and Milwaukee was able to put up 36 yet couldn't get stops defensively and traded baskets with Oklahoma City, which led to a 64-48 halftime score.
The start of the third quarter didn't go much better for the Bucks as they continued to trade baskets with the Thunder and trailed 79-58 with 5:58 left in the third quarter. In those remaining minutes, the Bucks rattled off a 21-5 run and went to the fourth quarter trailing the Thunder by just five, 84-79.
A three by Middleton was the first basket of the quarter and brought the Bucks within two, which was the closest they would get the rest of the night. After that, the Bucks just weren't able to score efficiently enough to keep up with the Thunder, even though they scored just 20 points in the game's final period to finish off an eight-point victory.
Though the Bucks couldn't keep it close in the final 12 minutes, the fourth quarter remained exciting as three players chased down triple-doubles. While Westbrook eventually secured his triple-double with 15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, his teammate Kevin Durant got stuck on eight assists and came up short, despite adding 32 points and 12 rebounds. Antetokounmpo, the third player chasing down a triple-double, picked it up late with his tenth assist on a Jabari Parker basket with 21.9 seconds left in the game. Parker also had a pretty great game with 26 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
The Bucks will make the short trip down to Chicago on minimal rest for their next game Monday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CST.
- K.L. Chouinard noted that Antetokounmpo missed Middleton at the 3-point line in transition in the first quarter, which makes sense as he continues to grow in that role. At times, Antetokounmpo fails to grasp the extreme gravitational pull he has on defenders and the correct time to deliver the ball to a shooter on the wing. Later in the game, he saw Middleton early on in transition and delivered a pass on the money for a Middleton three. Still inconsistent, but it appears he will continue to improve in that regard.
- I think I will take Antetokounmpo's euro-step poster dunk on Ibaka as the Bucks' dunk of the year.
The Greek, freaked: https://t.co/jJViSgV2gt— Royce Young (@royceyoung) March 6, 2016
- Quick note for Tyler Ennis: If you're running a 3-on-2 fast break with Parker on the wing, give him the ball. It will always be the right play.
- For the second straight game, Tyler Ennis played seven first half minutes. When asked about Rashad Vaughn and Tyler Ennis post-game, Kidd said, "They're going to play. We have limited guys. So, Vaughn and Tyler are going to play. And Tyler will probably end up getting more minutes here as we go forward."
- Antetokounmpo has been much better in the last three games from the line, making 27 of his 29 attempts, but that success may not be allowed to last. In the last three games, it appears as though the longer free throw routine that drew the attention of the NBA at the All-Star Break might be back. On Sunday, even Bucks radio play-by-play guy Ted Davis got in on the action as he counted to eleven on-air on one of Antetokounmpo's free throw attempts. We'll see if the league is willing to take any more serious action.
- During a portion of this season, it appeared as though Parker would never comfortably take a catch-and-shoot attempt. Since the All-Star Break, he has done a much better job with shot preparation before the catch.
- Parker has been somewhat inconsistent taking advantage of mismatches in the post. In the second half, Dion Waiters switched on to him and he settled for a step-back 20 footer. Hopefully, if he continues spending more time with Antetokounmpo, he can get a few pointers and start dominating switches.
- Khris Middleton has had a knack this entire season of having a poor shooting night and somehow managing to get 20 points by the end of the night. Halfway through the third quarter, he was 2-of-13 from the field with just eight points and really struggling. It looked like he wouldn't have a chance to salvage Sunday's game, but he almost did it with a hot shooting stretch at the end of the third and start of the fourth. He ended just short with 18 points on the night.
- Ultimately, the Bucks really struggled with the Thunder's length and athleticism on the wing. The Thunder were able to switch almost all of the Bucks' action, including pick and rolls, and they really struggled with that in the first and fourth quarters.