In the absence of Mark Daigneault, Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Dave Bliss was at the helm on Friday night in their matchup against the reining champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Although the Bucks are struggling early in the season, they had a huge advantage over the Thunder in terms of talent. It showed early on, as they opened up a 20-point lead in the second half.
From there, the young OKC roster once again chipped away after being down big to pull within striking distance.
Oklahoma City has been a top ten defense this season, which showed late in this contest. The Thunder held Milwaukee to just 16 points in the fourth quarter on Friday night, but couldn't get things going offensively late in the game to complete the comeback win.
Milwaukee ultimately pulled out a 96-89 victory, but it was a game in which the Thunder showed exactly why they've outperformed their expectations early in the season.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander struggled once again on Friday night, going 5-for-20 from the floor and scoring just 17 points. Following five consecutive games with at least 20 points, Lu Dort also missed more shots than usual, finishing with just ten points on 13 shots.
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Oklahoma City rookie Josh Giddey did have a spectacular night, producing 14 points and 12 rebounds in 32 minutes. The Thunder bench also shined bright, scoring 37 points led by Mike Muscala (14 points) and Ty Jerome (ten points).
The Bucks deployed a very balanced scoring attack with all five starters and one bench player finishing with at least ten points. Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 21 points, 19 rebounds and 7 assists on the night.
The Thunder will be back in action Saturday night against the Boston Celtics on the second night of a back-to-back.
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