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Milwaukee vs. Oklahoma City: Bucks Survive Thunder, 96-89

Despite OKC’s comeback attempt, Milwaukee comes out with a win

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Milwaukee Bucks Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

After an impressive first quarter showing, the Bucks were able to escape Oklahoma City’s comeback attempt and earn a win, 96-89.

The Bucks didn’t waste a single second getting ahead in this one. Right off the bat, their shots were falling, rattling off a 12-0 lead in the blink of an eye. That lead would continue to trend upward through the remainder of the quarter, with the Bucks soundly controlling the dynamics of the game. Heading into the second period, Milwaukee owned a 34-24 lead.

Milwaukee would keep pouring it on in the second quarter, as they were simply the far more talented team. Oklahoma City failed to generate any types of rhythm on the offensive side of the basketball, and simply couldn’t generate many stops on the defensive end. Strong play from George Hill in the period gave the Bucks a nice spark. At halftime, Milwaukee scratched out a 58-47 lead.

That double-digit lead would continue throughout the third quarter. The Thunder could never rattle off a run to put Milwaukee’s lead in any danger. Going into the final quarter of play, the Bucks held on to an 80-68 advantage.

The Thunder would finally break through in the fourth, as the Bucks started to play with their food. It’d be a single-digit competition for much of the remainder of the game, with Oklahoma City slicing it to just two points at one point. However, a Giannis Antetokounmpo mid-range jumper in the waning moments proved to be the dagger in this one and the Bucks walked away with a 96-89 win.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led all scorers, finishing with 21 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Bobby Portis had his fingerprints on the game with 17 points and Khris Middleton notched 16 points for the second consecutive game.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder in scoring with 17 points on the evening. Rookie Josh Giddey and Mike Muscala poured in 14 points each.

What Did We Learn?

We learned that this Thunder team can put up a fight. So many times this season, they’ve put comebacks on teams and are a squad that thrives on playing from behind. Obviously, the Bucks were clicking on all cylinders in the first quarter. That would come to a sudden halt in the final period of play, which is when Oklahoma City began to make their move. For the Bucks, it can be something that they can take and improve on. It isn’t something that hasn’t been seen before. This team has had the tendency to play with their food at times, and last night was another example. Ultimately though, they were able to close the door when they needed to and earned the win.

Three Observations

Bobby Portis continues to be a massive factor on the offensive end.

In nights where Giannis and Khris aren’t putting up their typical offensive numbers, another player on the offense typically steps up and contributes. Last might, that was Bobby Portis. He would finish with 17 points on 5-of-13 shooting, a line that included 3-of-6 from downtown. How good has Bobby been lately? With those 17 points, he’s now scored double-digits in seven straight games. That streak matches the highest streak he’s had as a Buck, as he achieved that twice last season. Portis brings so much to this squad and it’s huge to see him making steady contributions night in and night out.

George Hill had one of his best nights of the season.

A spark was provided by George Hill off the bench last night. He tallied 12 points on a nifty 4-of-6 shooting from the floor, and was able to provide just what the Bucks needed at times. His shot looked good, as he knocked down a pair of threes as well. However, what was talked about in the postgame availability was Hill’s improvement on becoming aggressive. Budenholzer mentioned that this is something that he discusses with Hill and that it’s something that they want to see more of. Bud discussed that when he is aggressive and finds opportunities, it makes the Bucks a better team. Look for Hill to continue that aggression moving forward.

Congrats to Khris Middleton — the new 3PM leader in Milwaukee Bucks history.

After tying Ray Allen’s franchise 3-point record earlier this week against the Lakers, Khris Middleton wasted no time in making himself the sole leader of that record. He’d connect on a three with his first shot attempt in the first quarter. It really epitomizes the journey that he’s had. From the G League to being a throw-in in the Brandon Jennings trade to becoming the franchise’s all-time leading 3-point leader, man, that’s special. After the game in his interview with Bally Sport’s Zora Stephenson, Khris was holding the game basketball. He mentioned how he’ll cherish this moment and ensure that his kids don’t get the chance to mess up the ball. Just a fabulous moment.

Bonus Bucks Bits

  • When the NBA released the earned jerseys this year, a lot of fans were quick to criticize the Thunder’s all white uniforms. However, after seeing them in person, I have to say that they weren’t the worse. In fact, I sort of liked them.
  • At halftime, the Bucks held a trivia for fans...and look who won (Note: This is not the actual JOB...or is it...?)!
  • Mike Muscala continues to be a sneaky Bucks killer. He provided some nice scoring off of the Oklahoma City bench, pouring in 14 points. Could he possibly be somebody the Bucks look at adding around the deadline?
  • I know we’ve seen so many impressive plays from Giannis on the defensive end throughout his career, but man, that block attempt on the alley-oop was surreal. Just incredible that he has such a deep defensive highlight reel.
  • Semi Ojeleye continues to struggle during his time in a Buck uniform. In 17:31 played, he registered a -16 RPM. He wouldn’t register any points, going 0-for-4 from the floor and not converting on three 3PA. He’s now shooting 6-of-28 from the perimeter on the season.
  • Last, going back to Khris breaking Ray Allen’s 3PM franchise record...he gave us this gem of a quote: