Thunder-Bucks Preview

No team has allowed fewer opposing players to reach 30 points
than the Milwaukee Bucks, and Kevin Durant’s third-lowest career
average is against them.

The Bucks and Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder also lead the NBA
in blocks as they meet for the first time Saturday night in
Milwaukee.

Only six times has a player scored 30 in a game this season
against Milwaukee (35-36), which joins Indiana and San Antonio as
teams to allow that few 30-point performances.

Now the Bucks will get their first look this season at Durant,
averaging a league-best 28.3 points. The superstar, however, has
averaged 23.3 points against Milwaukee in eight games.

Durant enters off a spectacular 36-point effort on 13-of-19
shooting in Friday’s 101-93 loss at Minnesota.

The Thunder’s lead over Denver in the Northwest Division was cut
to 3 1/2 games and they fell 2 1/2 games behind San Antonio for the
Western Conference’s best record.

“We’ll be fine,” Durant said. “You know, just a little bump in
the road.”

This matchup features the league’s top shot-blocking teams, with
Oklahoma City (53-20) averaging 7.5 and Milwaukee 7.0.

The Thunder’s Serge Ibaka and Bucks’ Larry Sanders are in a
tight race to finish first in the NBA in blocks. Ibaka blocked five
shots Friday and is averaging 3.00 to take a slight lead over
Sanders, who is at 2.98 per game.

Sanders helped key Thursday’s 113-103 victory over the Lakers.
He had a career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds for his team-best
23rd double-double.

“Larry was great, really active,” coach Jim Boylan said. “There
was a lot of communicating going on.”

The Bucks snapped a four-game losing streak. They are in good
shape to reach the playoffs as they hold the East’s eighth-best
record, but want to be on the upswing entering the postseason.

“I’ve never been in the playoffs, it would be a great experience
for me,” said Sanders, who is averaging 11.7 rebounds over his last
10 games. “But from all the experience we have here, you want to
gain momentum for the playoffs.”

Ersan Ilyasova scored 20 points and the backcourt of Monta Ellis
and Brandon Jennings combined for 38 as the Bucks placed all five
starters in double figures in that category.

Marquis Daniels scored 16 and defended Kobe Bryant for large
stretches. Bryant joined the list of rare 30-point scorers with
36.

How the Bucks approach Durant remains to be seen, with the
versatile Sanders likely to see some time defending the Thunder
star.

Russell Westbrook had 18 points and nine assists Friday and
Ibaka added 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Thunder, who will try
to improve to 8-5 in the second half of back-to-back contests.

“If we want to get to where we want to get to, we’ve got to get
up for every game,” Durant said. “And I think we were up for
tonight, but we just ran into a team that played better.”

The Bucks have taken five of the last eight meetings, with the
Thunder winning 109-89 on the road in the lone matchup last
season.