MILWAUKEE — Well, they can't all be works of art.
Two nights after playing what could be the game of the year thus far in the NBA season, the Thunder traveled to Milwaukee and labored through an utterly brutal game against the Bucks.
The electric offense on display in Thursday's thriller at Golden State became a distant memory in Saturday's defensive slugfest, one that Oklahoma City survived, 92-79, against a shorthanded Bucks squad inside the Bradley Center.
“It wasn't pretty offensively. We didn't make shots,” said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. “But defensively we were really good, I think.”
Both teams shot below 42 percent, the Thunder holding the Bucks to 34.9 percent, by far an opponent season low.
At halftime, the score was tied at 40. The Thunder had connected on just 31.3 percent of its field goals, a percentage that made the Bucks' 37 percent clip seem like the Showtime Lakers.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks, however, will take it.
He talked before the game about the importance of his team buckling down defensively and limiting opponents' efficiency. Going into Saturday, the Thunder had allowed 103.6 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting.
Saturday was the first time OKC has held an opponent under 93 points this season.
“That's the sign of good teams in this league and good players,” Brooks said. “If your shot doesn't fall, that doesn't mean your game should fall.”
Milwaukee was without several key members, including starting small forward Caron Butler (sprained shoulder), starting center Larry Sanders (thumb surgery), new point guard Brandon Knight (hamstring) and reserve forward Ersan Ilyasova (sprained ankle). So the Bucks' offensive struggles were to be expected. They entered the contest averaging just 91.6 points, fourth fewest in the league, and shooting a better percentage from 3-point range (.425) than the field (.423).
“We know Milwaukee's banged up right now, but we still wanted to come in and play a solid defensive game, and I thought we did,” Brooks said.
The fourth quarter, particularly the first five minutes, was the turning point and the most impressive the Thunder was all night.
OKC turned a 72-65 lead after three quarters into a 12-point lead after hounding the Bucks into four turnovers and five missed shots on their first nine possessions of the period.
“We talk about starting quarters with a mindset of don't be the one to get scored on, and we did that throughout the game,” Brooks said. “But I thought that fourth quarter really gave us a chance to extend the lead.”
Reggie Jackson sparked the rally by scoring five straight points to give the Thunder a 77-65 lead. Milwaukee responded with an 8-0 run to pull within four, but the Bucks never got closer.
Russell Westbrook lead all scorers with 26 points. Durant scored 24. Serge Ibaka added 15 points and a career-high tying 20 rebounds.
“I think we did a good job of just playing together,” Westbrook said. “I think in the first half, we did a good job of playing the right way. We just wasn't making shots. But I think the way we played was good basketball.”