The Milwaukee Bucks are fighting desperately to catch the tail end of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and they've got a relatively easy schedule for the last few weeks of the regular season. Monday night's match-up was not typical of that easy schedule. They faced the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team currently in a dead heat with the Spurs for first place in the whole Western Conference. The meeting went about as you'd expect -- Milwaukee hung around, but the Thunder, even in the second of a back-to-back on the road, proved far too big, active and accurate for the Bucks to handle, and they more or less cruised to a 109-89 win.
The early going turned into a bit of a battle between Russell Westbrook and Brandon Jennings -- a battle that the considerably bigger and visibly pissed off Westbrook won pretty handily. Jennings got his baskets off the dribble, but couldn't do much on the other end to stifle Westbrook's scoring in transition and shooting from the perimeter. Westbrook had 15 points by halftime and finished with 26 on 21 shots to lead all scorers.
As a unit, the Thunder ran their offense with nary a kink. Their shooting from pretty much every range vastly eclipsed that of the Bucks, particularly during the first half. Milwaukee actually turned things up in the second half. It finally started to hit jumpers, began to stave off OKC's offensive rebounders, and kept Kevin Durant pretty much silent after the break. The Bucks just couldn't dig into the Thunder lead, though. Nearly every stop or scoring possession was met with an immediate retort from Oklahoma City. Milwaukee never drew closer than a 10-point difference, compounding its mistakes with a succession of technical fouls in the crucial third quarter. Larry Sanders, who had one of those technicals, would go on to pick up another in the fourth after elbowing Nick Collison in the chin (apparently you're not allowed to do that)?
Oklahoma City ran the lead up to 19 points at the end of the third, then coasted through a few minutes of basketball and a long stretch of garbage time (also known as "Cole And Lazar Take Milwaukee") to close out the victory. This was pretty cool, too:
Milwaukee's loss dropped it to 28-29, a game and a half behind eighth-seeded Philadelphia. Oklahoma reached 42-15 in victory.
For all of Monday's NBA box scores, check out SI.com's NBA scoreboard.