Thunder vs. Milwaukee Bucks Game Recap – April 4, 2017

The fans had halftime to calm their nerves, and then Russell Westbrook made sure to ease their anxiety quickly in the third quarter.

With 9:23 remaining, Westbrook plucked his 10th rebound of the night off of a Milwaukee Bucks missed shot, then cruised up court and tossed a floating pitch-ahead pass to Taj Gibson over the top of the defense. Gibson spun and dropped the ball through the net with 9:17 on the clock, giving Westbrook his 41st triple-double of the season and the fans in Chesapeake Energy Arena a historic moment.

By notching 12 points to go with 13 rebounds and 13 assists, Westbrook tied Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in a season in NBA history with 41, while also tying Wilt Chamberlain for fourth all-time for a career with 78. With five games left to go, Westbrook has a very realistic opportunity to pass both players, in addition to averaging a triple-double for the season, averaging 30-plus points and winning the scoring title.

“To be a complete player like that every night, it’s so valuable to the team. Players really respect that, and he’s doing it the right way,” forward Nick Collison said of his longtime teammate.

#0 joins Big O as the only two players in NBA history to record 41 TDs in a season. Recognize #hist0ry

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on Apr 4, 2017 at 6:32pm PDT

The crowd had already exploded with an ovation when Gibson’s bucket went through, thanks to a group of fans who brought a homemade triple-double counter sign to help their fellow Thunder-heads keep track. When gameplay reached a stoppage with 8:29 to go, however, the public address announcer had a chance to single out Westbrook’s achievement, which gave all 18,203 in attendance the chance to rain chants of “MVP” for their All-Star point guard.

“It’s a special night and it’s something I’ll never forget. I’m truly honored to do it here in Oklahoma City,” Westbrook said. “The overwhelming support really shows. Obviously here, but all the cross the world and different people that support me and our team, the Thunder. That’s the most important part.”

For Westbrook’s purposes, however, Gibson’s bucket was doubly useful. It gave the Thunder a 27-point lead, en-route to a season-high 39-point lead in a 110-79 victory over the Bucks on Tuesday night.

Thanks to his play and that of his teammates, Westbrook’s services weren’t required for longer than 27 minutes tonight, as the Thunder ran away with the win behind strong defense and efficient offense. It was the consistent all-around performance that Donovan and company had been looking for after a rash of wild games that featured massive comebacks and blown leads.Westbrook and the starters set the tone. The rest of the team finished it.

“As a leader, my job is to come out and make sure I have that energy and that sense of urgency for my teammates,” Westbrook said.

The Thunder held Milwaukee to 20-or-fewer points in all four quarters, resulting in just 35.8 percent shooting for the visiting Bucks on the night. The ringleader behind the stout effort was Andre Roberson, who set the tone early with an absolutely ridiculous transition chase down block on Giannis Antetokounmpo, which deflected off of the Bucks forward and out of bounds for a turnover. Roberson finished the night with just four points, but had five rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks and mostly just wreaked havoc on the long and athletic Milwaukee wings.

“(Roberson) was like a one-man disruptor out there for us,” Head Coach Billy Donovan said. “What he did defensively in that first quarter was phenomenal and the way he closed the half was great for us too.”

“We all did a great job of communicating, getting into our coverages and executing our game plan,” Roberson added. “One of our main focuses coming out of last game was communication and I feel like we all stepped up and did a great job.”

It was a tight game through the early stages of the first quarter, when neither team had much offense going while Westbrook had just two assists through his time in the first quarter. After he checked out, however, the Thunder’s second unit went on a massive, game-changing run behind the scoring of Alex Abrines and Enes Kanter, and playmaking of Semaj Christon. The Thunder went on a 22-6 run without Westbrook on the floor during the stretch at the end of the first quarter and start of the second quarter, as the reserves scored on nine out of their first 10 possessions.

Abrines was the catalyst, knocking down four out of six three-pointers for 12 points in 12 minutes, but had to leave the game with a sprained knee. Despite that, the Thunder’s offense operated smoothly, generating 29 assists on 47.6 percent shooting while nine different players scored at least eight points in the game.

“It was good for us to have the right mindset and be consistent with our focus,” Collison said. “We just kept playing the right way. That was good to see. We need more of that.”

Señor ! Thunder UP by 8 headed to Q2.

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on Apr 4, 2017 at 5:42pm PDT

Highlights: Thunder 110, Bucks 79

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By the Numbers

9 – Number of Thunder players who scored at least eight points in the game, as the Thunder shot 47.6 percent and racked up 29 assists

35.8 – Shooting percentage for the Bucks on the night, who scored just 59 points through three quarters, and no more than 20 in any period

41 – Triple-doubles this season for Russell Westbrook after his 12-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist performance, good for the 78th triple-double of his career, tying Wilt Chamberlain for fourth-most all time

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The Last Word

“For Russell to be able to do what he did tonight is really remarkable. There’s a reason that record has stood for as long as it had. The great part is that our entire team shared in that as well and everybody was a part of it.” – Head Coach Billy Donovan

Watch & swipe The people have spoken. Recognize #hist0ry #ThePeoplesChamp

A post shared by Oklahoma City Thunder (@okcthunder) on Apr 4, 2017 at 7:58pm PDT

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