Bucks, Thunder figure to light up scoreboard

League: NBA

Posted on: 23 Mar, 2024 at 10:50 PM

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of teams toward the top of their respective conferences face off for the first time as the Milwaukee Bucks welcome the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Milwaukee (45-25) last played Thursday when it fended off a Brooklyn Nets comeback and won 115-108.

Damian Lillard led the way with 30 points along with 12 assists, while Giannis Antetokounmpo returned to action and scored 21 with nine rebounds. Antetokounmpo missed Wednesday night's game in Boston due to a hamstring injury.

"We came out kind of flat (in the third), didn't play with any pace. The first half the ball was hopping, it was beautiful," Bucks coach Doc Rivers said. "That's not the way you're gonna win in the long run, we had to play ourselves through that and I thought we did."

Rivers added that Lillard played a pivotal role with his competitiveness and leadership.

"He's a very competitive guy, you could see that tonight," he said. "He has the ball in his hands more. The more he has it the more confidence he has to run the team."

The Thunder (49-20) sit alone in first place in a tightly packed Western Conference after their 123-103 win over the Raptors on Friday night in Toronto.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 23 points and eight assists. Jalen Williams added 20 while Chet Holmgren scored 18 along with 10 rebounds.

"It wasn't our best 48-minute effort in totality, but when we needed to respond, we were tapping into the right stuff which was defense, physicality, effort," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.

"I thought the group to start the second quarter really amped the game up physically on the defensive end."

Gilgeous-Alexander leads the Thunder with 30.8 points, 6.4 assists and 2.1 steals per game. Holmgren leads down low with eight boards and 2.4 blocks per contest.

Milwaukee is led by Antetokounmpo's 30.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. Lillard is dishing just over seven assists while Lopez is swatting away 2.5 shots per game.

On the injury front, Khris Middleton missed Thursday's game as the Bucks manage his return from an ankle injury. Whether he'll play Sunday night has yet to be announced. The Thunder's injury report is clear.

On paper this matchup looks to provide plenty of offense. The Thunder average 120.7 points per game, just 0.1 ahead of the Bucks for third in the NBA entering Saturday.

Oklahoma City also leads the NBA in 3-point percentage (39.2 percent) and is second in field-goal percentage (50 percentage).

However, the Thunder are more impressive on the defensive end, leading the NBA in blocks per game (6.7) while also ranking fifth in defensive rating (111.2).

These teams haven't seen each other in quite some time, with both ends of the annual two-game series a season ago taking place in November 2022.

Milwaukee has taken five games in a row in the series, including the last which was a double-overtime, 136-132 thriller. The all-time series is a tight one, with Milwaukee leading 76-73.

--Field Level Media