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Thunder 109, Bucks 99

by Darnell Mayberry Modified: April 12, 2013 at 6:47 pm •  Published: March 31, 2013

Nuggets from my notebook from Saturday’s win at Milwaukee.

  • That was a nice bounce-back win by the Thunder. After what transpired in Minnesota a night earlier, OKC had to have this one. And even though things weren’t always pretty, and the wheels nearly came flying off at the start of the fourth, the Thunder took care of business and salvaged a split of this brief two-game road trip.
  • The game-changing moment came after Scott Brooks called a timeout with 8:39 left to play. Milwaukee had just started the final period banging in its first four shots. It gave the Bucks a five-point lead, their largest of the night. The Thunder at that point had two options: fold or fight. Milwaukee wasn’t ready for which way the Thunder went.
  • Over the ensuing 2 1/2 minutes following that timeout, the Thunder went on a 12-0 run, opening a seven-point lead that eventually grew as large as 12. Milwaukee never got closer than five.
  • On the subsequent five Bucks possessions following that timeout, the Thunder made Milwaukee go 0-for-3 with two turnovers.
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder scored on all six of its next possessions, going 5-for-5 from the floor and sinking a pair of free throws.
  • Best of all, those five field goals were all high percentage shots. Either defense led to offense, or fundamental screens freed up players and put multiple people in scoring positions.
  • Three players scored for the Thunder during that decisive stretch, Nick Collison of all people leading the way with six points. OKC also had four assists on those five made field goals, further illustrating how harmonious the offense was at that juncture.
  • “I wish I could take credit for that,” Brooks said of the timeout resulting in the run. “Our guys did a good job of just getting after it. They had a mentality not to be the one to get scored on. We talk about that during our timeouts, and that was well executed by our guys. Not one player on that court was going to let their man have an easy bucket.”
  • Kevin Durant on the run: “Coach drew up some great plays for us. Guys were in their spots. Everybody came off hard on their cuts and they were able to get open…That started us off and then we got stops.”
  • Pretty incredible that the Thunder held Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to a combined 17 points on 6-for-30 shooting. That doesn’t happen every day. Ellis, for instance, leads the Bucks with a 19.5-point scoring average. Jennings came in averaging 17.8 points.
  • With that said, if you told me the Thunder would hold the Bucks starting backcourt to 17 points on 6-for-20 shooting I would have said OKC would win by 20. Milwaukee deserves much credit for even being within five points in the final five minutes with their best two players having nightmarish nights.
  • Brooks on the defense of Jennings and Ellis: “We always make it difficult. We don’t want guys to get easy looks. It’s as simple as that. And great players like they are, they can make tough shots. Tonight, they didn’t make their shots. That’s partly because of us and partly because they missed some shots. We can’t take credit for all of it.”
  • Part of the reason the Bucks were able to stay so close and make it a game was the play of their big men. Larry Sanders, Ersan Illyasova and Ekpe Udoh absolutely dominated the boards. The final rebounding numbers say OKC won overall, 48-45. But the Bucks gobbled up 19 offensive rebounds and scored 20 second chance points. Udoh had five offensive boards — one less than the Thunder’s starting lineup — and Illyasova and Sanders each had four.
  • The Thunder has now allowed 14.6 offensive rebounds in its past seven games. Sound the alarm already.
  • Russell Westbrook was fantastic yet again, recording a triple-double with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He added three steals and a blocked shot. Asked which area he was most impressed with, Westbrook said the rebounding. “Just helping the bigs,” Westbrook said. “Helping them get some loose rebounds and leading to breaks.”
  • This was Westbrook’s sixth career triple double.
  • Westbrook attacked relentlessly all night, barreling his way to the rim and putting pressure on the Bucks defense with hard, unstoppable drives. Milwaukee either had to foul him or watch him score. Ultimately, the Bucks were forced to do a bunch of both.
  • Westbrook had 14 free throw attempts, one less than the Bucks had.
  • Durant is quietly putting the finishing touches on his fourth straight scoring title. He poured in another 30 points tonight and neatly finished 10 of 19 from the field, one of two from deep and nine of 10 from the stripe to keep the pursuit of 50-40-90 alive and well.
  • This was one of those night where Durant just goes about his business, scoring in the flow before finishing with a cool 30.
  • Durant added five assists and turned it over only twice.
  • The crazy thing is the Bucks actually had a nice little defensive tag team to throw at Durant in Marquis Daniels and Luc Mbah a Moute.  Those two would have combined to do a number on most players. Against the Durant, it’s like they weren’t even there.
  • More and more Durant has to answer questions on the road about the opposing team’s best wing defender. Without fail, some poor reporter is only trying to piece together some kind of piece on their hometown defender. But they are questions Durant doesn’t particularly care for but tries to answer politely, which sets up a bit of comedy when you’re standing there watching what’s coming. Tonight, when Durant was asked about how Daniels I flipped over my stat sheet while standing right next to where Durant was sitting and looked again at his stat line. I thought, “this is about to be entertaining.” But Durant tried to be diplomatic. “I wasn’t really worried about it,” Durant said. “I didn’t really pay attention to it. When I play, I just focus on getting to my spots and shooting a good shot.”
  • This one was sort of seen as a battle of the league’s two best shot blockers: Serge Ibaka vs. Sanders. Ibaka then went out and blocked four times as many shots as Milwaukee’s entire team. Final tally: Ibaka 8, Sanders 0.
  • Ibaka on the “battle”: “It’s not just about that. We lost a tough game (Friday) night. I wanted to just try to play hard tonight and help my teammates get the win.”
  • Ibaka’s eight blocks were a season high. He’s had seven three times this year. After tonight, Ibaka is now averaging 3.07 blocks. Sanders sits in second place at 2.94.
  • I asked Ibaka how important it is to lead the league in blocks again. “It’s not really my obsession,” Ibaka said. “But it’s great too when you know you work hard and you give everything. But it’s not really my obsession.”
  • It’s possible the word Ibaka was looking for was objective. Maybe not.
  • This was another one of those games where Ibaka inexplicably was in no way a part of the offense early on. Then, in the third quarter, he erupted, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the period and making five of six shots. It again made you wonder why can’t that be the norm.
  • Ibaka on the third quarter: “I just tried to do my job, tried to do some good screens on Kevin. I know if I do some good screens on Kevin I will get myself open. And then Kevin, he did a great job to find me, to give me some confidence on offense.”
  • Durant on Ibaka’s third quarter: “It wasn’t like we came in here in the locker room and said we got to get Serge going. But he was patient. He set screens and rolled to the basket hard and finished.”
  • Ronnie Brewer got some first-half burn…but only because the Bucks were playing a four-guard lineup. He was solid. Didn’t score but provided some sound defense while grabbing two rebounds and dishing one assist in nearly seven minutes.
  • I’m probably like everyone else on the planet who couldn’t understand why Derek Fisher played 11 seconds more than Thabo Sefolosha in the first half and nearly twice as much as Reggie Jackson. That one made absolutely no sense.
  • Fisher’s fourth quarter defense was pretty good, though. He blanketed J.J. Redick and kept him from getting many, if any, clean looks. Chased him off of screens extremely well and bodied up on the perimeter. It was a nice quarter for Fish.
  • That doesn’t explain why Fish played all 12 minutes of the fourth. Think about it this way. If Jackson is running the offense well and doing everything right, scoring, passing, rebounding, defending, Westbrook is still coming back in nine times out of 10, right? So what’s the difference with Fish? Why wasn’t Thabo back in? No, Thabo is not Westbrook. But you could make the argument that defensively Thabo is everything to this team that Westbrook is offensively.
  • The step back Fish hit with 9:06 remaining in the second quarter was gorgeous. It was his only make of the night, but man was it pretty.
  • Kevin Martin scored 17. The Thunder won.
  • K-Mart got off to a scorching start, making five of his first seven before finishing 6-for-12. He looked like he made it a point to atone for his off night in Minnesota.
  • Thunder had great ball movement and, at times, great ball security in this one.
  • Durant said tonight that he considers himself 6-foot-9.
  • This was the 19th time the Thunder has held an opponent below 40 percent shooting. OKC is 18-1 in those games.
  • Up next. San Antonio on Thursday.

-DM-

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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