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.