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Thunder step up defense in 92-79 win

The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- Trying to prevent consecutive losses from turning into a losing streak, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks spoke Saturday about his team's need to improve its defensive field goal percentage.

The Thunder got the message loud and clear, holding Milwaukee to 35 percent shooting from the field in a 92-79 victory over the Bucks at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

"We knew Milwaukee is banged up right now, but we wanted to come in and play a solid defensive game and I thought we did," Brooks said. "We made them take tough shots. We did a good job defensively."

Forward Serge Ibaka was a defensive force, blocking four shots and trying his career high with 20 rebounds while finishing with 15 points.

"He's cleaning everything up for us, rebounding and blocking shots," forward Kevin Durant said. "We want him to keep playing the way he's playing and keep doing everything for us."

Oklahoma City's strong defensive effort came at a perfect time as the Thunder also struggled to make shots before a late surge that broke open a tie game.The Thunder shot 31 percent from the field in the first half and 41 percent for the game and 5 of 17 from behind the 3-point line but committing a season-low 11 turnovers.

"We didn't make shots, but defensively we were really good," Durant said. "They his some 3s, which they do, but we contested them all night."

Guard Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 26 points, Durant scored 24 and guard Reggie Jackson had 11 points in 20 minutes off the bench.

"They're a good team," Bucks center Zaza Pachulia said. "Defensively, we did a good job on them ... The problem was offensively, especially in the fourth quarter. We didn't execute and get the shots we wanted."

Milwaukee used 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions midway through the third quarter for a 13-5 run. The Thunder finally snapped out of its funk and went on a 11-4 run to close the quarter and led 72-65 heading into the fourth.

"When we hit a slump, the ball stops moving and we start forcing shots," Bucks coach Larry Drew said. "It doesn't take much for separation to occur when we're in a good rhythm. I thought we did a good job moving the ball in the first quarter, but it's the same story.

"We hit that slump, the ball starts moving and we force shots. In this league, it just doesn't take long for a team to put together a string of baskets and create some separation."

The Bucks (2-7) shot below 40 percent from the field for the second straight night, making 30 of 86, and went 8 of 22 on 3-pointers.

Guard O.J. Mayo led the Bucks with 22 points and forward Khris Middleton, playing extended minutes with forward Caron Butler out because of a shoulder injury, added 14. Forward Epke Udoh finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds and forward John Henson came off the bench to score 10.

"Down the stretch, we've got to get into our sets a little better and get what we want," said Mayo, who has scored 20 or more points in five of his last six games. "We can't turn it over. We've just got to get better. They're a seasoned ballclub. They did what they were supposed to do."

The Bucks challenged in the fourth quarter, drawing within four on a Mayo 3-pointer that made it 77-73 with 6:11 to play, but Milwaukee made just one field goal -- a 3-pointer by Middleton -- and went 3 of 4 from the line the rest of the way to lose for the sixth time in seven games, including five in a row.

NOTES: PG Luke Ridnour said he felt fine after appearing in his second straight game. Ridnour missed the Bucks' first seven games with back spasms and returned to play 21 minutes on Friday night at Indiana. He played 20 on Saturday and finished with two points and an assist. ... Thunder C Kendrick Perkins returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games in order to attend his grandfather's funeral. ... Milwaukee has lost four straight home games to the Thunder after winning six in a row from 2005 to 2010 ... Bucks G O.J. Mayo missed his first four 3-point attempts this season but is 24 of 41 (.585) in his last seven games. ... Oklahoma City wrapped up a stretch of three games in four days, all of them on the road. The Thunder will play its next six at home.
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