The Oklahoma City Thunder fall to the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks, 142-115.
Despite it being a 27-point loss, this game had the feel of the same song and dance for the Thunder this season where they make things interesting and stay in games they should be able to stay in on paper. Surprisingly enough, the shorthanded Thunder was able to keep up offensively – as the team scored 93 points in the first three quarters – but the issues came on the defensive side of the floor. This is now the third of the last five games where the Thunder’s opponent has scored at least 130 points in regulation. Since the All-Star break, the Thunder have had the 25th overall defensive rating. A stark contrast to the eighth-placed ranking the team has before the All-Star break. It seems like the lack of NBA talent and experience along with the general lack of available bodies have caught up with the Thunder on defense since the All-Star break.
For the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way once again as he scored another efficient 30-point game. For the Bucks, two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 39 points while Khris Middleton finished with 25 points.
Overall, this was a productive loss. Gilgeous-Alexander continues to score the ball like one of the best players in the league since the All-Star break and some of the young guys showed flashes in this offensive showing for a team that has struggled offensively all season long. Let’s take a look at player grades.
Gilgeous-Alexander was once again fantastic this game as he finished with 33 points on 11-of-18 shooting, shot a perfect 3-of-3 from three and went 8-of-12 from the free throw line. Gilgeous-Alexander also recorded a career-high 14 assists along with eight rebounds and three steals.
Since the All-Star break, Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 33.3 points on 65.7 true shooting percentage, 7.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds. It is fair to say that Gilgeous-Alexander has played like one of the best players in the league and arguably the best scorer since the break. What makes this feat even more impressive is the fact that he’s doing it with a shorthanded team and playing with mostly G League guys.
Aleksej Pokusevski continues to play like a legit NBA player since the beginning of February as he finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists. The shooting wasn’t there this game as he went 4-of-10 from the field but he hit a pair of timely threes during the Thunder’s attempted comeback in the second half.
Since February, Pokuevski has averaged 11.2 points on 46.1 percent shooting and 6.7 rebounds in 13 games. That sample size is starting to reach “serious consideration” territory as the 20-year-old puts in productive performance after productive performance.
“He’s significantly stronger. He’s worked hard on that. He was kinda like a slot machine last year, ”said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault after the game. “You know, win a prize or lose your life savings. I give him a lot of credit. He’s made a lot of progress. “
This was easily Lindy Waters III best game of his young career as he scored a career-high 16 points due to his 4-of-9 shooting from deep. Waters III was scouted as a good three-point shooter and this game clearly shows that.
A 16-point performance against the defending NBA champions is a nice showing for the two-way player and definitely earned after playing some engaged defense in his brief stint with the team.
Tre Mann finished this game with 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting that included going 1-of-6 from three. While not the most efficient game for Mann, still a solid performance overall. Expect to see plenty of Mann for the remainder of the season now that Lu Dort is officially ruled out for the year.
While not the 20-point performance Isaiah Roby has accustomed Thunder fans to recently, the 24-year-old still had a solid game of 12 points and three rebounds. Roby made his return after a one-game absence due to lower back stiffness. After the game, Roby admitted that he felt back tightness for two days but feels better now.