The Thunder defense showed up and showed out against Milwaukee Sunday evening in Oklahoma City. Persevering through some late game runs by the Bucks, the Thunder pulled through, winning 118-112, to make it a five-game win streak.

The beginning of the game started out slow for the Thunder as the Bucks went on a quick 8-0 run in the first 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Oklahoma City finally got on the board off of a Steven Adams shot, coming at the 9:27 mark in the first quarter. Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez became an early irritant for Oklahoma City as he hit three 3’s in the first quarter. Late in the first quarter Steven Adams had an injury scare as he sprained his right ankle, but would return later in the game. The Thunder were able to end the quarter 31-25, as Paul George put up 11 points early in the game.

The second quarter, otherwise known as the Nerlens Noel show, was a display of how good the Thunder are when they commit their identity to their defense. With Noel coming in while Adams was back in the locker room, he did a little bit of everything. There was an incredible sequence around the 10:47 mark by Noel where he made a putback layup, blocked Giannis Antetokounmpo, then finished an alley oop on the other end of the floor. Paul George also starting to heat up beyond the arc, hitting 2-4 from the three point line. Oklahoma City made a huge effort to lockdown Antetokounmpo, keeping him away from the rim as much as possible. Nearing the end of the half, Westbrook and Antetokounmpo collided near halfcourt and it appeared to be harmful to Westbrook’s left knee. Westbrook walked it off heading to the locker room at halftime, appearing to be fine for the remaining half. Oklahoma City lead 56-42.

The third quarter was when the Bucks were their strongest. Antetokounmpo finally hit his first shot, a three-pointer, after not making a single shot in the first half. Steven Adams had some highlights such as stealing the ball and turning it into a Euro step layup on the other end. There was a significant lack of Paul George in the third quarter as after having 21 points in the first half, only scoring an additional three points in the quarter. The Bucks also went on a concerning 9-0 run, cutting the lead down to seven, before Dennis Schröder hit a three to boost the lead back up to ten to end the quarter. After a 37-point quarter by Milwaukee, the Bucks trailed 89-79.

The Thunder finished out the fourth quarter with razzle, dazzle, and a little frazzle. With some late-game lack of communication, blown coverages, and eyebrow raising foul calls, The Bucks were able to get within four points of taking the lead from the Thunder. Thankfully, Paul George was able to ignite late in the fourth; pairing a poster dunk over Antetokounmpo and clutch three point shot to allow Oklahoma City to breathe. Antetokounmpo was blocked a career high seven times tonight. The play that sealed the deal was a steal by Jerami Grant, who had been phenomenal on defense all night. With late game energy, the Thunder were able to finish 118-112 over the Bucks and look forward to playing the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

Oklahoma City increased their winning streak to five games and are now 31-18 on the season.

Russell Westbrook finished the night with 13 points on 5-of-20 shooting (2-of-5 from three), 11 assists and 13 rebounds. This was Westbrooks sixteenth triple double on the season.

Paul George finished with 36 points on 12-of-21 shooting (8-of-12 from three), 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.

Jerami Grant had five blocks.

All starters scored in double figures.

Oklahoma shot fifty percent from three tonight going 16-of-32.

Oklahoma City will now travel to Orlando for a 6 p.m. tip-off against the Magic on Tuesday night. The Thunder will put their five-game winning streak on the line in a place where they’ve gone just

Keys to the Game

Lockdown Defense: A-

The Thunder, at their best, lead the Bucks by 19 points. Most notably they were able to put great pressure on Antetokounmpo by blocking him seven times, a career high. The defense is the Thunders identity and they did an excellent job of defending the paint. The surge from the Bucks late in the fourth caused concern but blocking and steals saved the Thunder win.

Three Point Shooting: B+

The Thunder hit 16-of-32 from beyond the arc, a rather rare percentage from a team that was the worst three point shooting team earlier in the season. With players like Terrance Ferguson and Patrick Patterson becoming viable scoring options as the season progresses, the Thunder will be able to rely on another element of their game.

Bench Points: B

The Thunder bench outscored the Bucks’ bench 24-15. Though seemingly small, it came through players like Noel and Schröder to keep Oklahoma City alive and able to stagger their starters productively.

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Ben Noble