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Rapid Recap: Bucks 97, Thunder 95

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

A Giannis Antetokounmpo game winner? I’ll take that as the final impression of the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2017, a controversial baseline drive that may’ve touched the baseline, but instead the Oklahoma City Thunder went down 97-95 behind Giannis’ mighty dunk. Milwaukee came out gunning against Oklahoma City, firing from downtown over and over in the first to stake a 38-18 lead after one quarter. OKC mounted a comeback of sorts in the second, with Westbrook helping lead the charge and cut Milwaukee’s lead to 58-44. The Thunder found their footing in the third quarter, nipping the Bucks’ offensive output so they led just 73-67 after three. Again the Thunder mounted a surge against the Bucks and after a bevy of missed free throws by both teams down the stretch, Giannis was able to match a game-tying three by Russell Westbrook with a game-winning dunk near the end.

A win against an Oklahoma City squad without Paul George doesn’t look stupendous on paper, but any win looks pretty good for this up and down Bucks team right now. The lasting impression should be Giannis’ final play though, which probably, maybe definitely should have been called out of bounds, but I’ll take some luck in my life to close out the year.

Giannis stuffed his box score wide rather than tall tonight, tallying 23 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the process. He was a little uninvolved throughout the evening offensively from a scoring aspect (by his standards), but his presence still netted others plenty of open looks. He also had over half of the Bucks turnovers though with five on the night, but that decisive play of the game made up for it.

Khris Middleton had it flowing from the start tonight, stroking his jumper and ending the evening at 20 points. An early fourth quarter scoring spurt helped them weather the absence of Giannis on the floor too as Middleton shot over the diminutive Raymond Felton repeatedly. Tony Snell and John Henson combined for 33 points.

With Paul George out tonight, Russell Westbrook was able to take his classic Westbrook power trip and plug it into high voltage again. He ended the night with a gaudy 40 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists but only went 16-34 for the game. His most useful partner for the tilt was Carmelo Anthony, who went for 12 points.

Stat that Stood Out

One. That was the one basket that Giannis made that cemented the victory for the Bucks tonight. His rip through and ensuing dunk that put the Bucks up two with less than a second left was controversial, but illustrated how his unique game continues to defy the conventional wisdom that he needs a workable jump shot. There are some other stats like Milwaukee launching up nearly twice as many threes as last night, but Giannis hitting his second game-winner of his career is far more worthy of celebration.