Defense pushes Thunder past Bucks
MILWAUKEE — When Paul George and Carmelo Anthony joined Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City this summer, everybody expected the Thunder to be an offensive powerhouse.
However, the Thunder are starting to show that their defense is nothing to mess with, either.
The Milwaukee Bucks learned that lesson the hard way Tuesday night, shooting just 42 percent while the Thunder got 20 points from George, 17 from Anthony and 12 from Westbrook in a 110-91 rout at the Bradley Center.
“We just do what we do,” said Westbrook, who grabbed 10 rebounds and finished an assist shy of his fourth triple-double of the season. “It was the Thunder against the Bucks, and the Thunder won.”
Oklahoma City’s Jeremi Grant finished with 17 points and Steven Adams notched his third double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The Thunder shot 49.4 percent, hit 12 of 28 3-pointers (42.9 percent) and made 18 of 21 free throws.
“They just played better than us,” Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo said. “They were more physical than us. We need to do a better job of being ready, especially against teams like OKC.”
Antetokounmpo finished with a team-high 28 points to lead the Bucks but failed to reach the 30-point mark for just the second time this season. He hit 9 of 14 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, but Milwaukee shot just 42.1 percent overall, including 9 of 30 (30 percent) from beyond the arc.
“We’re a little inconsistent moving the ball, sharing the ball and not dribbling, so that’s something we need to get better at,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “When we move the ball, things seem to go better for us.
“We had some good looks that didn’t go down for us tonight, but the ball dribbles a little too much at times and we need to get a little bit better at that.”
Oklahoma City wasted little time establishing itself against Milwaukee, using a 16-0 run to jump out to a 20-8 lead.
Antetokounmpo drew his third foul just a minute into the second quarter and spent the next eight minutes on the bench. Milwaukee struggled to keep pace without him in the game and fell behind by as many as 24 before going into halftime down 60-42.
“I need to do a better job of being aware,” Antetokounmpo said. “I know my team needs me on the floor, but that can’t stop me from being aggressive. I had two offensive fouls, and I’d rather have those than the touch fouls. I just need to do a better job of staying on the floor and helping my teammates.”
The Thunder’s big three of Anthony, George and Westbrook outscored the Bucks in the opening half, combining for 48 points.
George knocked down two 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Thunder, who connected at a 54 percent clip through the first two quarters, cooled off, going 8 of 21 from the floor but making 5 of 10 attempts from long distance.
“I thought we played a great game on offense in the first half,” Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said. “We really moved the ball well, and we generated high-quality shots.
“We started out, Paul made the first shot of the third quarter and we got off to a good start. We got a little bit lax and had a couple of possessions we needed to clean up, but I thought for the most part, the guys did a good job of attacking their defense.”
NOTES: Bucks C Greg Monroe missed a second game because of a left calf injury that is expected to sideline him for at least two weeks. ... Oklahoma City had six steals Tuesday and leads the league with 11.5 per game. The Thunder, who forced 15 turnovers, are second in the league at 19.7 per game. ... Bucks F Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to under 30 points for just the second time this season but still leads the league in scoring with 33.7 points per game. His previous low total this season was also 28 points, coming last week in a loss to the Boston Celtics. ... F Carmelo Anthony has scored in double figures in each of the Thunder’s seven games this season. ... Bucks F D.J. Wilson scored his first career points, finishing with four while playing a career-high 13 minutes. Wilson, Milwaukee’s first-round selection in the June draft, had played a total of two minutes in the team’s first six games.