5 min read

Poor Free Throw Shooting/Officiating Dooms Thunder Versus Bucks


Well that was dramatic.

The Thunder trailed 38-18 after the first quarter on Friday night versus Milwaukee, looking absolutely lost in the absence of Paul George. Although Oklahoma City trimmed the Bucks’ lead to 14 by halftime, the entire thing had the markings of a foregone conclusion.

Right on cue, the Thunder then flipped the season script and got rolling in the second half, outscoring the Bucks 23-15 in the third quarter and riding a heaping dose of Russell Westbrook in the fourth. He scored 14 points in the final frame and hit a monster three-pointer to tie the game with 4.7 seconds remaining.

Then all hell broke loose.

Giannis Antetokounmpo drove baseline on Josh Huestis to lay-in the tie-breaking bucket with just 1.3 seconds remaining — but most certainly stepped out of bounds on his way to the cup. Despite there being a referee just feet away examining the play closely, there would be no replay and the Bucks escaped with a 97-95 victory.

The final sequence:

Rough ending to a really weird night for the Thunder.

Although the missed call will be the story, the Thunder had plenty of missed opportunities leading up to that moment. The poor start and sub-par free throw shooting were equal parts to blame in the loss. Oklahoma City now falls to 20-16 on the season and returns to action on Sunday at home versus the Dallas Mavericks.

Now for some notes.


60: The Thunder shot 12/20 from the free throw line, a paltry 60 percent clip. Making matters worse, Russell Westbrook missed two, Raymond Felton missed two and Steven Adams had one wiped out due to a lane violation — all in the final minutes of the game. The Bucks somehow shot worse from the line, hitting just 47 percent of their tries, but OKC was crippled by a late inability to hit the free ones.

12: The Thunder gave up 12 offensive rebounds, including a couple late in the game that hurt dearly. OKC won 45-43 on the boards but did lose on the offensive glass, 12-10.

19: The Thunder allowed 19 points on 13 turnovers.

16: Just 16 assists for the Thunder. The offense without Paul George was similar to what we’ve seen lately except nothing like that at all.

32: The Thunder bench outscored the Milwaukee bench by a score of 32-13.

19: OKC needed to utilize the break in the absence of Paul George but was outscored 19-17 in transition.

Ugly Start/Ugly Finish

“Ugly” is a very poor descriptor for whatever happened to start this game — my game notes were chocked full of expletives and at one point I started searching for Shark Tank re-runs. It was that bad.

The Bucks got off to a blistering beginning, shooting 61 percent in first quarter and hitting 5/10 from downtown. When the first 12 minutes were over and done with, Milwaukee led 38-18 and Thunder fans were left hoping for another small electrical fire in the rafters so there’d be something to discuss.

The Thunder came to life in the second quarter and trimmed the Milwaukee lead to 14 at halftime. Things really got rolling in the second half, as OKC outscored the Bucks by a 51-39 tally in the final 24 minutes and shot 49 percent from the floor. The comeback hit its crescendo when the game was tied with 4.7 seconds to go — but you know how that ended.

Regardless of what happened late, it’s difficult to win when you put yourself in such a hole up front. That ugly first quarter — that featured a 22 point deficit at one point — was never fully overcome. The missed call to end it was simply icing on a poorly-made cake.

The Call

Obviously the missed out-of-bounds call at the end leaves a sour taste in the mouth — even more so because it was incredibly defended by Josh Huestis and would have given the Thunder the ball with about three seconds remaining. Even more puzzling is that play couldn’t be stopped long enough to make sure the call was right. It’s frustrating to lose that way.

But if we’re being honest, OKC trailed by as many as 22, shot 28 percent from downtown and 60 percent from the free throw line. The Thunder had no business being in this game. Would have liked to win it but it is what it is. Wasn’t necessarily a winning effort, although this seems fitting:

Fully-Auto Westbrook

Russell Westbrook has received much praise recently because of his newfound affinity for being selective. All of that went to the wayside with Paul George out of the lineup, as Westbrook went 16/34 from the field and 2/9 from downtown. He shot any time the idea of shooting crossed his mind.

For his part, Westbrook was great down the stretch — shooting 10/18 in the second half and 6/11 in the fourth quarter alone. He hit the game-tying three pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining — his 40th point of the evening — but Giannis Antetokounmpo and a poor call wiped out the heroics.

Final Stat Line: 40 pts, 14 reb, 9 ast, 5 TO, +0

Oh and hey — this dunk over Thon Maker might be the most impressive of Westbrook’s career. The lone highlight that withstands the test of such a disappointing ending.

It Was All a Dream

I had this recurring nightmare when the Thunder declined the team option available for Josh Huestis a couple months back. In it, he became an actual part of the rotation — so much that he would eventually start the second half on a night OKC was without Paul George. Then he played meaningful minutes down the stretch in a near comeback win, finishing as a team-best plus-21 in 28 minutes of action.

I woke up in a cold sweat every time.


The Cast. Westbrook scored 40 points and the Thunder’s second-leading scorer was Carmelo Antony and Jerami Grant, who each scored 12 points. Raymond Felton had 10 points — the only other Thunder player to score in double-figures — and Steven Adams had a quiet 6 points and 7 rebounds on 2/7 shooting.

No Bueno. Alex Abrines got the start but logged just 10 minutes and failed to score a bucket. His minus-24 was lowest on the team and he was replaced by Josh Huestis to start the second half. Sort of feel like Abrines is reaching the end of his rope after another poor outing.

The Other Guys. Giannis led the Bucks with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists. Khris Middleton dropped 20, John Henson scored 18 and Tony Snell put up 15 of his own. Eric Bledsoe struggled with foul trouble and logged only 24 minutes, but made some plays down the stretch.

Dre Watch. Andre Roberson was not on the floor for the final sequence and — according to Billy Donovan — that’s due to an unknown injury. Donovan didn’t have many details post-game but this is something to monitor.


Russell Westbrook discusses the missed call at the end. “I obviously think you’ve seen it. It’s over now. If don’t matter.” Via Erik Horne.