Thunder top Bucks with motivation from losses
MILWAUKEE — Perhaps a three-game losing streak is exactly what the Oklahoma City Thunder needed.
With the best record in the Western Conference, the Thunder had not been through much adversity this season. Then last week, Oklahoma City suddenly found itself struggling to get a win, losing back-to-back-to-back in games against Memphis, Miami and Indiana. Prior to that, the Thunder had only lost consecutive games once all season.
But for Kevin Durant, those losses didn't seem too detrimental.
"I don't know how to put this, but I think it's the best three-game losing streak I've been a part of," Durant said Monday. "It was a rough patch for us, but I think our defense was great in those three (and) we scored the ball. I think it's the small things that win games for you, the detailed things, like offensive rebounding, not turning the ball over and putting the team on the free-throw line. That's the difference between some of those games.
"It just shows us that we have to do little things for us to win. Those losses were tough, but we learned a lot."
For a team with superstars like Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook, if Oklahoma City starts doing all the little things well, too, it could be the start of a dynasty.
After beating the Raptors at home Sunday, the Thunder traveled to Milwaukee to face a Bucks team that is fighting to get into the playoffs. And, while doing many of the little things well — such as seven steals from Thabo Sefolosha and five blocks from Serge Ibaka — Oklahoma City dominated the game right from the start and won on Milwaukee's home court by 26.
"This is a night that reaffirmed we're definitely a top-tier team in this league," Westbrook said after the game. "That's what you're supposed to do if you want to win championships in this league; you have to come out every night, regardless if it's home or away, and impose your will on a team."
With a 35-18 lead after the first quarter, it didn't take long for the Thunder to impose their will in a major way, going on to cruise to a 109-89 win.
"They really didn't miss too much," Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings said. "It kind of shocked us a little bit."
This was the Oklahoma City team that had been cruising throughout most of the regular season. The team that, despite its star players all under the age of 24, seems capable of becoming NBA champions sooner rather than later. A team so balanced that Durant — the two-time consecutive league scoring leader — only needed 19 points.
Before the game, Thunder coach Scott Brooks dismissed the idea that the three-game losing streak was a slump, adding that he was pleased with many aspects of what his team did during that span. However, that doesn't mean the losses sat well in their locker room.
"We're always concerned because our guys don't like to lose a game, let alone two (or three)," Brooks said. "Our guys are very prideful. They're concerned about every game. I was concerned because I want to do the same.
"Every game, when you play against a good team on their home floor and play them down to the last minutes of the game, it's only going to help you, win or lose. You want to win, but you're not going to win every close game on your opponent's floor."
Their loss to the Grizzlies happened in Oklahoma City, but the losses to the Heat and Pacers both came on the road.
"We pride ourselves on 'Don't lose. Don't lose two in a row. Always have a bounce-back game after a loss,'" Brooks said. "Unfortunately, we did lose three."
But if the Thunder needed any extra motivation, James Harden said those losses "definitely" served as that, but added that "they didn't affect us at all."
If Monday's performance was any indication, even the Western Conference's experienced playoff-veteran teams like the Spurs and Lakers will need to be at their best to stop the seemingly unstoppable Thunder.
"We had some key losses, but we're back on track and hopefully we can keep it going," Westbrook said.
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