After twelve minutes in Milwaukee, the Thunder led the Bucks 32-12, which is fairly odd; OKC was 11-19 on shooting, which is not too weird; but neither Kevin Durant nor Russell Westbrook made any of those 11 shots, which is unheard of. (Westbrook, in fact, took no shots at all, and KD only one; but they’d combined for 11 assists and six rebounds during the quarter.) The Bucks, of course, weren’t going to lie down and die after that quarter, and outscored the Thunder 67-52 over the next two quarters, eventually pulling to within a single possession early in the fourth. Oklahoma City then proceeded to “struggle to embrace prosperity,” in the phrase of radio guy Matt Pinto, and did close out the Bucks, though not efficiently; Milwaukee ran off ten points in a row to pull within six in the last minute, but OKC picked up the win, 104-96, sweeping both games from the Deer and salvaging a 2-2 mark for this road trip.
Billy Donovan, despite having a roster spot filled — veteran big man Nazr Mohammed, a member of the Thunder Finals team in 2011-12, returned this weekend — has cut the rotation further: only nine men played until the last three seconds, when Anthony Morrow was brought in for God knows why. As usual, the starters shouldered most of the heavy lifting, with a Durant double-double (32 points/12 rebounds) and a Westbrook triple-double (15/10/11). The bench scored 27, two-thirds of which were accounted for by Enes Kanter. And that Milwaukee frontcourt is indefatigable: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker split 52 points between them on 43 shots. Not so much the backcourt: Khris Middleton methodically knocked down 18 points, while O. J. Mayo took only three shots and missed them all. (Jerryd Bayless did the hard work at point for the Bucks.)
So it’s back home and bloodied. The Clippers will be waiting on Wednesday, followed by the Timberwolves on Friday, and then things get hairy again in a hurry: to San Antonio on Saturday, a brief stop at home to welcome the Trail Blazers, and then off to the East, the Celtics, the Sixers and the Pacers, those three games in four days. Given the Thunder’s lack of efficiency against Eastern teams, that stretch could be more than merely hirsute.