If you were tuned in from the beginning of last night’s game, the 1st quarter bore witness to some of the sloppiest basketball seen all season. The score quickly became 4-0 in the Thunder’s favor just over a minute into the game, then you just started seeing brick after brick by both squads. It’s like they were in some type of masonry race where the first brick wall thrown up won the contest. The Thunder shot an abysmal 2-of-10 to start the game, but it paled in comparison to the problems the Bucks were having. They were already coming off of a loss the night before to the Bulls, where they had missed their last 11 shots. Last night, the streak stayed alive for much of the first quarter, as the Bucks missed their first 10 shots to start the game. They finally scored their first basket at the 6:37 mark of the 1st quarter, only to be quickly answered by two Kevin Durant free throws. At the 6:19 mark of the 1st quarter, the score was 6-2 in the Thunder’s favor. Another full minute was shaved off of the clock before two more Durant free throws put the score 8-2 in favor of the Thunder. The Bucks were able to start a mini-run of 4-0 at the 4:49 mark, but a Thabo Sefolosha tip-in started a Thunder run. Serge Ibaka chipped in two free throws at the 3:47 mark to put the score at 12-6, then another full minute ran off of the clock before a Sefolosha dunk at 2:45 put the Thunder up 14-6. Another full minute expired before the Bucks scored again to put the score at 14-8 with 1:20 to play in the opening quarter. The Bucks were able to score one more time before the 1st quarter ended to put the score at 14-10 in favor of the Thunder. This was a very notable start to the game for a number of reasons. The 38 first-half points by the Thunder were the lowest totaled in any half all season. But, on the plus side, the 10 first quarter points allowed were the fewest the team has allowed in any quarter since the relocation to OKC.
In the 2nd quarter, at the 10:11 mark, the Thunder sparked a 15-4 run that extended the lead to 12 (29-17), with 6:52 to play in the first half. The Bucks immediately responded with a 6-0 run to pull within 6 (29-23). Durant responded with a 3-ball off of a Reggie Jackson assist, only to be met with a Khris Middleton step-back jumper off of a Giannis Antetokounmpo assist. The Thunder then respond with a 5-1 run that extended their lead back to 12 (38-26) with 2:28 left in the half. These would be the last Thunder points of the first half, as the Bucks end the first half with a 9-0 run to pull within 3 by halftime (38-35).
At the 10:28 mark of the 3rd, with the score 44-39 in favor of the Thunder, the Bucks sparked a 10-3 run that gave them a 2-point lead (49-47) with 7:47 remaining in the period. But at the 5:26 mark, the Thunder responded with a 30-13 run to end the quarter with the Thunder up 15 (77-62). The 39 points the Thunder scored in the 3rd quarter out-totaled their first half scoring production by an entire point.
The run to end the 3rd would extend to a 32-13 run in the 4th, as a Jeremy Lamb finger roll off of a Derek Fisher assist put the Thunder lead at 17 (79-62). It was already running through the back of my mind, and I’m sure it was resonating in your head as well: The Thunder have built another double-digit lead at home, so how will they go about squandering this lead? Make no mistake, the Thunder really seemed like they thought about that possibility themselves. At 10:37 left in the game, with the score 81-64 in the Thunder’s favor, the Bucks sparked a 17-7 run to pull within 7 (88-81) with just 6:51 left to play. Luckily for the home crowd, this marked the point the Thunder stopped playing around. They proceeded to end the game on a 13-4 run, resulting in a 101-85 final that jumps the Thunder’s record to 27-9, while dropping the Bucks to a dismal 7-28.
Durant and Ibaka earned double-doubles last night. Durant hit 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Ibaka dropped 17 points and grabbed 17 boards. This double-double is Ibaka’s 16th of the season, which is significant because he logged 15 double-doubles total last season. Durant scored 30+ for the 20th time this season, which leads the NBA. Sefolosha scored 14 for the evening, and Lamb and Fisher combined for 27 bench points (Lamb: 17, Fisher: 10).
Antetokounmpo was the double-double man for the Bucks (13 points, 11 rebounds), and Brandon Knight dropped 13 points of his own. But the lead scorers for the Bucks combined for 38 points from off of the bench, as O.J. Mayo and Luke Ridnour put down 16 points apiece.
To be honest, the Thunder were lucky that their slow start was met by an even-slower Bucks start. They need to figure out what to do to have more “3rd quarters” against their opponents. They’ll have a couple of days to battle plan before they head to Fed Ex Forum to take on the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night. The first contest at Fed Ex Forum on Dec. 11th, 2013 resulted in a 116-100 Thunder victory, as the Thunder took advantage of the absence of Marc Gasol. They will get the opportunity to do so again, as Gasol is out indefinitely with a left MCL sprain. Although the Grizzlies will now once again be able to take advantage of the Russell Westbrook knee injury that allowed them to end the Thunder’s season last year. Other injured players include the Grizzlies’ Quincy Pondexter, who is out indefinitely with a tarsal navicular stress fracture in his right foot, and the Grizzlies’ Tony Allen, suffering from a sprained left wrist that has him listed as day-to-day. This contest will air this Tuesday at 7pm CST, and will be brought to you via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA League Pass.