Milwaukee lost its fifth straight game to drop its league-worst record to 7-29. O.J. Mayo and Luke Ridnour each scored 16 off the bench to lead the Bucks, who were playing for the second straight night and fell to 1-10 against Western Conference opponents.
“It got away in the third quarter,” said Milwaukee coach Larry Drew.
Until then, the Bucks were actually hanging with the Thunder as neither team could find its shooting touch at the start.
The two clubs combined to make just nine of 41 shots in the opening period. They combined for more turnovers (11) than made field goals in the period. Before rookie forward Giannis Antetokounmpo gave the Bucks their first basket via a dunk over Kendrick Perkins, the teams had missed 16 straight shots. That basket made it 4-2 with 6:37 remaining in the period.
Offense was at such a premium it seemed for a moment that a 6-0 run by the Thunder to make it 14-6 would be an insurmountable deficit for Milwaukee.
“To be honest, all we wanted to focus on was defense,” said Durant. “Maybe that's why our offense wasn't so good.”
The Bucks closed within 14-10 at the end of the first period. And regardless of how it happened, it marked the fewest first-quarter points allowed in the franchise's Oklahoma City era.
The Thunder opened a 12-point lead on numerous occasions in the second period and led 38-26 with 2:28 remaining in the first half. But the Bucks reeled off nine straight, draining three 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to pull within 38-35 at the half.
Milwaukee carried over that momentum into the third period, scoring on its first five possessions to open a 47-46 advantage. The Bucks at that point appeared to be growing more confident as each shot fell. A Khris Middleton 3-pointer later gave the Bucks a 54-52 advantage, their largest of the game, with 5:26 left in the period.
That's when Lamb found his touch and the Thunder found the killer instinct that's been missing of late.
“It shows that we can win different ways,” said Durant. “We can play fast-paced, slow it down, win a sloppy game or a low-scoring game. … Tonight, we didn't get down on ourselves and let it affect our defense.
“Everybody played hard. I'm proud of Lamb, how he came out. I don't think he was struggling, but he was struggling with his shot and he came out tonight super aggressive right away. He kind of ignited us a little bit off the bench.”