Oklahoma City Thunder (21-10) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (12-20)
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena
Broadcasts: TV – FS Wisconsin. Radio – AM-620
A battle of two premier athletic small forwards, as Giannis and the Bucks come to Oklahoma City to take on Kevin Durant and the Thunder Tuesday night. Durant is currently on a 17 game streak of scoring 20 or more points, which is the longest in the NBA.
Probable Thunder Starters
G Russell Westbrook, 6-3, UCLA
G Andre Roberson, 6-7 Colorado
F Kevin Durant, 6-9, Texas
F Serge Ibaka, 6-10, Republic of Congo
C Steven Adams, 7-0, Pittsburgh
What We Need To Know About The Thunder
When former Thunder coach Scott Brooks was released at the end of last season many expected Oklahoma City to need some time before they could become that Western Conference power many teams have feared over the past five years again; especially after the foot injuries of Kevin Durant and the hiring of first time professional, former Florida Gator coach Billy Donovan. With a 21-10 record which is third in the Western Conference the Thunder look to be that team before Durant’s foot problems in large part to the play of superstar point guard Russell Westbrook who is averaging 25.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 9.5 assists a game, along with the play of Durant himself who is averaging 26.5 points a game. With the help of their lengthy, tall, offensively minded supportive cast of Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, and Enes Kanter, the Thunder lead the league in points per game at 108 and are second in the league in rebounds at 48. Last but not least the Thunder have a strong home field advantage boasting a 14-4 record which is only behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs whom are both undefeated at home this season.
Probable Bucks Starters
G Michael Carter-Williams, 6-6, Syracuse
G Khris Middleton, 6-8, Texas A&M
F Giannis Antetokounmpo, 6-11, Greece
F Jabari Parker, 6-8, Duke
C Greg Monroe, 6-11, Georgetown
Bucks Keys To Victory and What To Watch For
While the Thunder are among the leaders of the NBA in scoring and rebounding, the Bucks are in last or close to last in those categories. In their game against Dallas Monday two of their top three scorers were off their bench in OJ Mayo and the returning Jerryd Bayless. Scoring off the bench is nice but against this Thunder team the lack of production in Milwaukee’s starters will not get them close to a win. A coach’s decision to not play John Henson and Tyler Ennis in Monday’s loss also does not help matters as both guys can really help the team score, defend and win if they are actually utilized. Besides needed scoring from their starters the Bucks need to figure out how to take out at least one of the heads of the Thunders monster of Westbrook and Durant. If they are going to do that, Westbrook is the player they have to go after as he is smaller, has a tendency to drive to the basket and isn’t the most consistent shooter in the league and the taller, lengthier Michael Carter-Williams can prevent his great tendencies and exploit his not so good tendencies. As just a fan of the game how can anyone not be excited by the Giannis/Durant matchup? Giannis has the height advantage but Durant is one of the craftiest shooters in the game, having the ability to sink any shot at any time. Durant’s weakness may be in his defense, as it has for his career and Giannis’ ability to drive into the paint can exploit that, even though the tall, shot blockers of Ibaka and Adams can be a problem in the paint for not only Giannis but the Bucks team as a whole. Lastly, the Bucks again must not allow the game slip away from them in the second half. They did a good job coming back against Dallas but a lack of containing Wesley Mathews’ perimeter shooting late in the fourth quarter sealed another loss for Milwaukee. If there is one factor that can help a team either comeback or let a game slip away it is three point shooting.