OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook sees it starting to come together. After an injury-plagued start to the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are healthy and finding their form.
That meant bad news for the Milwaukee Bucks, who fell 114-101 after the Thunder pulled away in the second half at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We’re getting it back a little bit, little bit,” Westbrook, a guard, said after scoring a game-high 28 points. “We have little stretches where we mess up as a team, but I think we did a good job of stopping it quickly and converting.”
The win was the third in a row for the Thunder (8-13) while the Bucks dropped to 11-12 on the season.
“They are a very good team and those two players (Westbrook, forward Kevin Durant) are very good,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “But it’s not just those two. They are a team. For us, we have to get back to play defense and helping one another. Not worry about the offensive end.”
With 6:17 left in the fourth quarter, Bucks center Larry Sanders drained a pair of free throws to cut Oklahoma City’s lead down to 11. But Durant came back and hit a 15 -foot jumper.
After Thunder forward Serge Ibaka came up with a block, it triggered a fast break led by the Durant. He dropped it off to the trailing Ibaka, who threw down a two-handed dunk to push the home team’s advantage to 103-88 with 5:40 left on the clock.
After free throws from Westbrook and Durant and a 3-pointer from guard Reggie Jackson, the Thunder led by 19, and coach Scott Brooks began to empty his bench to let the reserves close the game out.
Westbrook shot 8 of 16 to go along with five rebounds and seven assists. Durant added 23 points, nine boards and seven assists in his first home game of the season. Ibaka posted 15 points and three blocked shots.
“I just felt like I had an advantage down there (post) with my length and I could shoot over guys,” Durant said. “I see they weren’t double-teaming so I had a lot of time to work. I was able to make a few shots and my teammates were looking for me.”
Guard OJ Mayo paced the Bucks with 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Rookie forward Jabari Parker scored 15 points, but was held to one rebound.
With the Thunder playing at full strength at home for the first time this season, the crowd carried Oklahoma City early in the first quarter. Despite sloppy play, Oklahoma City jumped out to a seven-point lead.
However, the Bucks withstood the initial burst and guard Brandon Knight shot them back into a 31-26 first-quarter lead.
With the Thunder’s perimeter shots not falling, it was their big men who took over. Center Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka attacked the offensive boards with put-backs.
But it was the Westbrook show in the second quarter. He scored nine points in the quarter, which was highlighted by a put-back dunk in which he skied over Mayo. The Thunder led 61-52 at halftime.
“I really don’t know my celebration until I actually see it on replay,” Westbrook said. “So I don’t know what I did to tell the truth. I saw the miss shot and just tried to go grab it and put it back as quick as I can.”
The Bucks attempted to make a comeback as they fired away from 3-point range. However, they shot only 19 percent from behind the arc.
Even when the Bucks connected from the outside, their defense let them down. Oklahoma City was able to drive to the rim with little resistance from the Bucks. The Thunder ended the night with 46 points in the paint.
“We let those guys get into our lane, into our paint,” Mayo said. “We fouled a lot tonight. A whole lot of whistles. For us to hang our hat on defense and for them to be in the bonus the first three minutes of the game, we have to get better in that area.”
NOTES: Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd likes what his backcourt gives him with G O.J. Mayo in the starting lineup. “Everybody just looks at him as a scorer,” Kidd said, “but he is one of our best passers. He has a very high basketball IQ. He makes plays for his team.” … Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant played in his first home game of the season, but he was still on a 30-minute playing time limit. “It affects the players,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “You get comfortable playing a certain amount of minutes, but he’s made the adjustment.” … The Thunder were allowing just 92.7 points per 100 possessions with G Andre Roberson on the floor before Tuesday. That number jumped to 103.6 with him on the sideline, the widest margin of any player on the team. “He gives us an athletic wing that can defend,” Brooks said. “That is his role, and he’s good at it. It’s hard to score over him because he’s relentless in his pursuit.”
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