Bucks 96, Thunder 89: Giannis Antetokounmpo's late jumper seals win after big lead disappears

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Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander battles for the ball with Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) and guard Jrue Holiday at Fiserv Forum.
Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander battles for the ball with Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (left) and guard Jrue Holiday at Fiserv Forum.

The Milwaukee Bucks got back to .500 and won consecutive games for just the third time this season with a dramatic 96-89 victory over Oklahoma City on Friday night at Fiserv Forum.

The Bucks led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter but had to hold off the youthful Thunder over the final quarter, with Giannis Antetokounmpo hitting a spinning, fading 15-footer with 28.7 seconds left that made it 93-89.

In the win, Khris Middleton moved past Ray Allen for the franchise lead in all-time made three-pointers with his first basket of the game. Middleton now owns both career three-point records (made, attempted) for the Bucks.

“It’s really cool,” Middleton said. “To be No. 1, to pass Ray Allen, one of the best shooters of all time. I’ve still got a ways to catch him in career (threes) but to be No. 1 in franchise is pretty cool. I told Giannis just let me have one record I’m happy about it. To be with this organization for nine years, to be No. 1 in three-point, coming in as just a three-point shooter and was able to expand my game over the years but to have one of my goals achieved here is extremely, extremely cool.”

Allen is currently the NBA’s all-time leader in threes made with 2,973. Middleton, who began his career in Detroit, is currently tied for 110th with 1,068.

Following the return of Middleton from health and safety protocols and their win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Bucks players acknowledged it was time for them to get back on a consistent, winning path. In beating the Thunder (6-9), the Bucks (8-8) alternately looked dominant and disjointed.

They shot 56.5% from the floor in the first quarter and shot 50% in the first half while building leads of 13, 17 and 16 in the first half. After taking the 20-point lead with 4 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter the Thunder outscored the Bucks, 35-22, the rest of the way.

After the hot start, Milwaukee finished the night shooting just 37.3% rom the field and 29.3% from behind the three-point line.

The Bucks improved to 4-0 in games in which Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Middleton played. Antetokounmpo scored 21 points, pulled down a season-high 19 rebounds, handed out seven assists, had four blocks and two steals.

BOX SCORE: Bucks 96, Thunder 89

Middleton added 16 points and eight rebounds while Holiday had 10 points. Bobby Portis had 17 points and 13 rebounds and Grayson Allen contributed 11. George Hill had 12 off the bench.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced Oklahoma City with 17 points, but shot just 5-for-20 from the field. Three other players reached double figures for the Thunder as all 10 who played scored at least two points.

The Thunder have proven capable of comebacks, though, as they have won four games in which they have trailed by at least 16 points, though after cutting the Bucks lead to just two points on three different occasions over the last eight minutes, they couldn’t take the lead.

“First of all, gotta give them credit – young team, they played hard the whole game,” Antetokounmpo said. “You know they’re not gonna stop. Even though you’re up 20 they’re going to keep playing, they’re going to keep moving the ball, they’re going to keep attacking, they’re going to go for offensive rebounds and that’s what they did.

“I think we did a good job of when they came close keeping our composure, still executing, still getting open shots.”

Oklahoma City used an 11-3 run to open the fourth quarter to truly get back into the game as Milwaukee’s shooting went cold. The Bucks scored just four points in the first 5:19 of the quarter.

“It’s hard to find positive in that (fourth) quarter, but I do think defensively we gave ourselves a chance,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We kind of ran into mud. It looked like we were in mud, couldn’t make enough shots, couldn’t make enough plays.”

Milwaukee led by as many as 20 points in the third quarter when they opened the frame going on a 16-7 run to lead 74-54. But, the Bucks scored just six points after that and the Thunder shaved the lead to 80-68 at the end of the quarter.

The Bucks led 58-47 at the half, an 11-point margin that felt small considering the fact the home team began the game on a 13-0 run and then went on a 11-0 run later in the first quarter. Milwaukee shot 50% from the field in the first half as well as seven different players scored.

Oklahoma City did fold, however, cutting that early 13-point deficit down to 17-11. Then after trailing 28-11, they cut that margin down to 30-22 with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. The Bucks would take a 34-24 lead into the second quarter, and pushed that margin to 42-26 in the opening minutes.

But again, the Thunder refused to go away with a 14-8 spurt to make it 50-40 before Hill and Antetokounmpo helped the Bucks to an 8-3 run to send the Bucks into the half up 11.

Hill (12 points) and Antetokounmpo (11 points, 6 rebounds) led the team into the break while Allen contributed 11 points as well. Nine of the 10 Thunder players to see court time scored, with Gilgeous-Alexander leading the way with 10 points.

Oklahoma City was coached by Wausau native Dave Bliss as Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault was home awaiting the birth of a child.

The Bucks were without forward Rodney Hood, who was scratched with a right hamstring strain. Hood, a free-agent acquisition at the start of the year, has played in nine games thus far while dealing with foot and hand injuries. He is averaging 3.8 points in 13.3 minutes per game.

Brook Lopez making progress

Brook Lopez has been out since Oct. 19 with what has been called “back soreness” and while Mike Budenholzer once again did not put a timeline on the center’s return, the Bucks head coach did say, “Brook is making some progress. We’ve always, I feel like, been saying that it’s been steady but maybe not as quick as we’d like. But he’s making progress, he’s doing more and I don’t think there’s a lot more to say than that.”

More: Rolling Stone article suggests tense concerns for Bucks over COVID-19 during NBA Finals

More: In GQ interview, Giannis Antetokounmpo acknowledges next challenge may not be in Milwaukee

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bucks 96, Thunder 89: Giannis' jumper seals win after big lead disappears