Preview: Bucks at Thunder
The Milwaukee Bucks pushed their latest winning streak to six straight behind another MVP-like effort from superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo on Friday and own the fewest losses in the NBA as they get set to embark on a five-game road trip. Antetokounmpo and the Bucks will kick things off by visiting the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.
The Bucks trailed 87-76 entering the fourth quarter on Friday and were down 12 with under 10 minutes to play before Antetokounmpo took over, scoring 14 of his 34 points in the final period and outscoring the Hornets himself in the fourth, 14-12. “It gives us momentum,” Antetokounmpo told reporters of the win. “We sat for three days, we didn’t have a game and this game just is something we’re going to build on. Hopefully, we’ll go to this five-game road trip and try to get as many wins as we can.” The Thunder come into the matchup with some momentum as well after winning their last four games and averaging 122.3 points during that stretch. Oklahoma City improved to 16-7 at home with a 122-116 triumph over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday and is wrapping up a three-game homestand with Milwaukee.
TV: 6 p.m. ET, ESPN, FS Wisconsin (Milwaukee), FS Oklahoma
ABOUT THE BUCKS (35-12): One of the keys to Milwaukee’s fourth-quarter surge on Friday was a defensive change that left Antetokounmpo at center and moved seldom-used reserve Pat Connaughton into the lineup, allowing the team to switch at every spot. “It allows me to be up and take pride in my defense, try to play the guys one-on-one,” Antetokounmpo told reporters of the setup. “Usually, we play back in the pick and roll, so we let the guy come downhill and try to shoot a floater or shoot the tough two, but sometimes I feel like it’s nice to take a step or two up and try to defend those guards and take pride in helping the team.” Antetokounmpo added three blocks and three steals to his 34 points and 14 rebounds in the victory.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (30-18): Star point guard Russell Westbrook is shooting 41.8 percent from the floor – the lowest mark since his 2008-09 rookie season – and 24.3 from beyond the arc but is still finding ways to impact the game. Westbrook is trying to average a triple-double for the third consecutive season and piled up 23 points, 17 rebounds and 16 assists on Friday. “(Westbrook) is a once in a generation kind of guy,” forward Abdel Nader told the team’s website. “He’s special on both ends. He plays with the energy level that some guys wish they could play with. He’s a hell of a leader and a hell of a player.”
1. Thunder All-Star SF Paul George went 6-of-10 from 3-point range on Friday and knocked down at least three from beyond the arc in each of the last six contests.
2. Bucks C Thon Maker, who is averaging 4.7 points in 11.7 minutes but recently fell out of the team’s rotation, reportedly requested a trade.
3. The road team took each of the two meetings last season, with Milwaukee earning a 97-95 triumph at Oklahoma City.