The Thunder struggled from the beginning to find rhythm offensively and defensively. A tough shooting night coupled with an impressive scoring night for the Bucks resulted in a rare road loss for the Thunder in Fiserv Forum.
The Thunder’s offense never quite found a rhythm. However, in the first 12 minutes of the game, both squads fought to muster any semblance of momentum as neither team shot an exceptionally high clip from the field initially.
Even after a pair of threes from Mike Muscala who entered into the first quarter and injected some much-needed life into the Thunder offense, the Bucks immediately answered with a bucket of their own to maintain a lead. By the end of the first quarter, the Thunder trailed by a manageable six points.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) February 29, 2020
The momentum began to roll for the Bucks in the second quarter as they strung together multiple possessions of made baskets, particularly from behind the line. As the Thunder looked to protect the paint, the Bucks capitalized from the 3-point line. A pair of back-to-back triples from Wesley Matthews ignited a massive second quarter run for the Bucks and also foreshadowed the type of shooting night the Thunder was up against.
Reigning NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo was major role player in the Milwaukee run scoring 15 points in the second quarter en route to a 25-point half. With no Danilo Gallinari (ankle soreness) the Thunder rotated between Hamidou Diallo and Deonte Burton on Antetokounmpo. The Bucks looked to attack the size advantage and give its power forward several looks alone on the block.
“They posted us a lot more. We had some size disadvantages where we tried to get the ball out of the post as fast as we could,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “We didn’t have a lot of size at the power forward spot. They probably posted us more than they normally posted most teams.”
On the other end of the floor, the Thunder’s offense continued to sputter. Looks that typically drop on any given night, were off target. The Thunder’s quick hitters early in the shot clock played into the hands of the Bucks defense who then capitalized on the other end. Going into the half, the Thunder trailed 70-47.
“We had really good looks, I got some open threes,” said Chris Paul who finished with a team-high 18 points. “Dennis [Schröder] and I got to where we get any other night. So, we took those same shots, but we just didn’t make them.”
The Bucks continued to shoot at a high level from behind the arc in the third quarter maintaining an efficient 44 percent clip from downtown. With the higher volume of 3-pointers, the Thunder also was in a fight for long rebounds. The Bucks wrangled in 14 offensive rebounds on the night and converted them into 11 second chance points.
After back-to-back quarters with 39 and 37 points from the Bucks, the Thunder’s deficit grew out of reach heading into the final frame.
“We didn’t do the things necessary to put ourselves in a position to win the game and to be close,” said Donovan. “We need to continue to get better and continue to improve.”
Despite a lackluster shooting percentage, the Thunder remained within a one possession margin deep into the second quarter. A bucket from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander brought the game to within three points with five minutes remaining in the quarter.
However, it was the closing minutes of the second quarter proved to be pivotal for the Thunder who were outscored 24-4 in the final five minutes as the Bucks caught fire from behind the line and Antetokounmpo continued to soar in scoring.
“That last three four minutes of the second quarter kind of got away from us and that was a combination of our offense and our defense,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan.
“Scoring every play. Just getting whatever they want, getting the ball wherever they want,” said Steven Adams. “Basketball-wise, they were getting to their positions before the play perfectly. We didn’t extend their catches or pressure them enough.”
In the beginning of the second quarter, Steven Adams and Abdel Nader executed a textbook two-man game. After a contested pick-and-roll attempt, Nader passed the ball to Adams at the free throw line.
After a brief second to get his defender to rela, Nader sprinted toward the rim. Without hesitation, Adams rifled the ball into the lane for Nader who had left his man beyond the arc and elevated for an uncontested two-handed slam.
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) February 29, 2020
The Bucks caught fire from behind the arc knocking down 21 out of its 45 attempts for a 46.7 percent clip from deep. Ball movement from the Bucks forced scrambled rotations for the Thunder defense.
Milwaukee’s drives to the rim put pressure on the rim and forced Thunder defenders to pack the paint in order to prevent easy looks at the basket. As a result, the Bucks sent the ball out to open shooters spotted up on the perimeter with a too-little-too-late contest from OKC.
“When you’re playing that packed like that, you’re going to be late to the three-point line,” said Donovan.
“We try to minimize the volume [of 3-pointers] as much as possible, but they were hitting all of them as well,” said Adams. “Obviously, we were doing a lot of things wrong.”
“We missed [shots]. I think that we got a lot of really good looks, but our defense and our rebounding wasn’t much tonight. It’s just an old-fashioned butt-whooping. So, keep on moving.”–Chris Paul
“These guys have been really competitive. I thought we competed today just didn’t really have it at the level we needed to tonight, and we need to learn whatever we need to learn from this and then we need to flush it and be able to move on to the next one.”–Coach Donovan
The Thunder will look to put this one behind them as they move forward into March with three days before its next game. On Tuesday, the Thunder will take on the Clippers for the first half of another road-home back-to-back.