Oklahoma City Thunder holds off Milwaukee Bucks' comeback attempt

By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange  |  March 7, 2016 at 12:39 AM
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MILWAUKEE -- With losses in six of their first eight games coming out of the All-Star break, the second half of the NBA season has been frustrating for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

So when what had been a 20-point lead was reduced to just two points early in the fourth quarter, head coach Billy Donovan sounded the alarm and his Thunder responded.

"In a normal NBA game, there's about a 23-point swing either way," Donovan said. "It's very rare that you go wire-to-wire and it's easy. Our guys were good with saying 'OK, they're making a run, let's respond.'

"They did a good job. I thought (Kevin) Durant and (Russell) Westbrook were really good in the timeouts and kept us focused."

They were also pretty darn good on the floor.

Westbrook notched his 10th triple-double of the season and Durant finished just two assists shy of his second as the Thunder pulled away late for a 104-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks Sunday afternoon at the Bradley Center.

Westbrook made just 3 of 7 shots but went 8-for-11 from the free throw line to finish with 15 points to go along with 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

Durant, meanwhile, went 6-for-14 from the field with four 3-pointers and hit 16 of 18 free throws to lead all scorers with 32.

Most of their free throw damage came in the fourth, when they combined to go 11-for-13 from the line to finish with nine and seven points, respectively, closing the door on what had been a furious Milwaukee comeback.

"We didn't make shots at the end of the third and they got some run-ups," Durant said. "We made some mistakes here and there but that's just a part of the game ... but they didn't get anything easy, they worked hard for every single shot."

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with his third triple-double of the season and of his career. He scored a team-leading 26 points with 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

"I thought Giannis was great," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "I don't know how much better he can get but with those triple-doubles, you have to start adding wins."

Antetokounmpo certainly tried, scoring fifteen of his points in the second half as Milwaukee wiped out a 16-point halftime deficit.

The Bucks shot just 33 percent through the first two quarters but knocked down 13 of 23 shots in the third and got seven straight from Khris Middleton to close out the quarter and head to the fourth down just five.

Middleton struck again early in the fourth, hitting his second 3-pointer of the game just 37 seconds in to make it an 84-82 game.

Westbrook answered with a running layup that kicked started a 15-4 run that all but closed the door on Milwaukee's rally.

"We got energy in the second half," said forward Jabari Parker, who matched Antetokounmpo for the team lead with 26. "We just couldn't convert after that."

Middleton finished with 18 points but the Bucks were doomed by a 3-for-23 start to the game.

"That first quarter was not acceptable," Kidd said. "But to keep playing and keep fighting; coming out after halftime, we got back into the game."

But they just couldn't find a way to stop Durant or Westbrook.

"They set the tone early passing the ball and getting their teammates involved," Kidd said."

NOTES: F Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded his third career triple-double -- and third of the season -- on Sunday, finishing with 26 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. All three of his triple-doubles have come in the last three weeks. He's the first Bucks player to accomplish the feat three times in one season since Alvin Robertson did it in the 1990-91 campaign. ... Oklahoma City PG Russell Westbrook's 15 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists marked his 10th triple-double of the season. He's second in the league in that category in 2015-16. ... Thunder F Kevin Durant finished just two assists shy of his second triple-double of the year, but with 32 points and 12 rebounds, recorded his 22nd double-double and passed the 30-point mark for the 21st time this season. ... C Nazr Mohammed traveled with the Thunder to Milwaukee after signing a free-agent deal with the team on Saturday but did not play. ... Bucks coach Jason Kidd said F John Henson has started practicing on a limited basis again but has no timetable on when he'll return. Henson has missed 16 games with a sore back.

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