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Fourth-quarter defense leads to Thunder's victoy over Bucks

The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- Sometimes, a well-timed timeout can be all a team needs to get back on track.

Such was the case Saturday night for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who after weathering a fourth-quarter storm rattled off a 17-2 run en route to a 109-99 victory over the Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Milwaukee had erased a double-digit deficit to tie the game at 83-83 heading into the final quarter and had pulled ahead by five points on Marquis Daniels' jumper when Thunder coach Scott Brooks summoned his team with 8:39 left in the game.

"I told them we had to take some pride in our defensive possessions," Brooks said. "The guys did a great job of that."

Heeding the advice, Oklahoma City surged ahead and built a 10-point lead when Kevin Durant, who finished with 30 points, connected on a 3-pointer from 27 feet to make it 104-94 with 2:47 to play.

The Thunder forced Milwaukee into five turnovers during that span after the Bucks had committed just three in the first three quarters, converting them into nine points.

"I wish I could take credit for that," Brooks said. "Our guys just got after it. They had a mentality not to be the one to get scored on. We talked about that in the time out. That was well-executed by our guys. Not one player on the court was going to let their player get an easy basket."

Offensively, Oklahoma City had plenty of firepower. Russell Westbrook finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for his sixth career triple-double while Kevin Martin had 17 and Serge Ibaka added 16.

Ibaka solidified his lead over Milwaukee's Larry Sanders in blocked shots, finishing with eight while Sanders had none.

"It's great when you know you work hard and give everything," said Ibaka, who has 27 blocks in his last five games. "The most important thing to me was to win after losing last night."

The Bucks had trouble getting into a groove as both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis struggled to find their shot. As a team, Milwaukee connected at a 37.8 percent pace with Jennings and Ellis shooting a combined 6 of 30 from the field to finish with eight and nine points, respectively.

"Our guys gave everything they had," Milwaukee coach Jim Boylan said. "We just didn't make enough shots. You can't shoot 37 percent and expect to beat Oklahoma City."

Ersan Ilyasova led Milwaukee with 29 points and had 14 rebounds. Epke Udoh came off the bench to add 14 with 11 boards while Daniels and Larry Sanders each scored 12 for the Bucks, who have lost five of their last six but remain 5 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Down 56-46 at halftime, Milwaukee came out to start the third quarter with four 3-pointers and got within a point on Monta Ellis' 3-pointer that made it 74-73 with 3:35 left in the third.

The Bucks went ahead for the first time since the early going on Sanders' tip-in just a few seconds later, but he was quickly called for a technical. Martin tied the score with a free throw and Oklahoma City regained the lead on a Nick Collison jumper with 2:47 left.

Milwaukee retook the lead in the final minute of the quarter when Ellis took a pass under the hoop for an easy layup.

Westbrook hit two free throws with 35.8 seconds left but fouled Udoh on the other end. The Bucks center made his two free throws with 22.6 seconds left, but Ellis then was whistled for a foul on Durant, who made both with 0.2 on the clock, tying the score heading into the fourth quarter.

Daniels' 3-pointer and jumper put Milwaukee out by five at 92-87 with 8:39 to play, but the Thunder came back with 12 straight and took a 99-92 lead on Collison's dunk with 6:10 left.

Ilyasova ended the drought for Milwaukee, but Durant's 3-pointer put Oklahoma City up 104-94 with 2:47 left and the Bucks never threatened.

NOTES: The Bucks made 12 3-pointers Saturday, the 12th time they've hit 10 or more in a game. ... Ibaka's eight blocks were a season high. ... Ilyasova has six double-doubles in the last seven games. ... The Thunder and Bucks met for the first time this season. The two teams meet one more time, April 17 in Oklahoma City.
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