The Milwaukee Bucks aim to wrap up a four-game road trip with a win in Oklahoma City on Sunday, a tough assignment considering the Thunder have won five of the last six meetings at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder, in fact, were one of two teams to sweep the Bucks last season, although Giannis Antetokounmpo was a spectator for the final encounter as Milwaukee elected to rest its stars ahead of the playoffs.
Antetokounmpo most assuredly will be on the court on Sunday, especially given his recent comments against the notion of "load management."
The reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, however, wasn't on the court in the final moments of Friday's game, as the Bucks saw their four-game winning streak come to a halt with a 103-100 loss at Utah. Antetokounmpo had fouled out after scoring 28 of his 30 points in the second half for Milwaukee, which was unable to overcome an early 22-point deficit.
"Obviously, we cannot allow ourselves to get down 22 before the half, but at the end of the day, I think the team did a great job coming out of the half fighting, playing together," Antetokounmpo told reporters after the game. "And, you know, when you're a good team, that's what you do. We could easily just give up and allow the game to go to 30 and just have it be a blowout, but that's not what we do. ...
"At the end of the day, I think out of this game, we got better. Even though we lost this game, we got better."
Khris Middleton matched his season high on Friday by scoring 26 points for the third time in 2019-20 and the second time in his last three games. The 28-year-old also recorded season highs in 3-pointers (five) and rebounds (11) before seeing the Bucks' bid for a comeback fall short.
"It's tough," Middleton said. "Guys out there gave it our all. Came down to two plays down the stretch that cost us the game."
Oklahoma City collected its third straight win at home and third in four outings overall with a 114-108 victory over Golden State on Saturday.
The Thunder saw a 17-point halftime lead go by the boards before veteran guard Chris Paul said the team opted to simplify its play en route to pulling out the victory.
"Start hooping, stop thinking," Paul told Fox Sports Oklahoma. "Just push the tempo, push the pace. Put them in ball screens and just not play so slow. I think early in the game I was sort of walking it up. Me and Dennis (Schroder) talked about pushing the tempo, and that's what we did."
Schroder, who added 16 points and six assists off the bench against the Warriors, erupted for 32 points on eight 3-pointers in the Thunder's 127-116 win over Milwaukee on April 10 of last season.
Danilo Gallinari made four 3-pointers to highlight his 21-point performance versus Golden State. The 31-year-old has found his touch from long range, sinking 9 of 12 attempts from beyond the arc over his last two games.
--Field Level Media