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Thunder secures sixth seed in West with 127-116 win at Bucks in regular-season finale

MILWAUKEE – Thunder point guard Dennis Schroder caught a pass from Russell Westbrook and drained a 3-pointer from the left wing. It was his third in as many possessions.

“They gave us the 3,” Schroder said. “Everybody was shooting it with confidence. I had probably three or four open ones.”

The Thunder wanted to finish the season playing well. It didn’t play to its identity in its regular season finale, but it played well enough to clinch the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference with a 127-116 win over the Bucks Wednesday at Fiserv Forum. The Thunder will face third-seeded Portland in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Thunder wasn’t itself. But against a patchwork Bucks team OKC set three team records and finished the regular season on a five-game winning streak.

“Three games in four nights,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “with a lot on the line for us, I thought our guys handles it pretty well.”

OKC had reason to be off. It was on the second night of a back-to-back. Its leading scorer and best defender, Paul George, was sidelined by right shoulder soreness. Starting center Steven Adams played the second half with a sore right shoulder after taking a hard foul in the first half.

“It was a unique game just from the perspective that they played zone (defense) the whole entire game,” Donovan said. “Of the 81 other games, maybe outside of Brooklyn in the second half, no one else has played a whole bunch of zone like that from start to finish.”

For the most part, OKC didn’t do the things it usually relies on well. The Thunder still scored on the fast break, 28 points worth, but shot uncharacteristically poor from the paint, especially early on. Missing layups was nothing new, but usually missing its first three shots in the paint is the sign of a night that’s going to unravel. The Thunder went 23-of-38 in the paint. Adams went 1-of-5 from the field.

The defense wasn’t particularly impressive against a Bucks team that chose their team’s health over winning. They had already secured the No. 1 seed, so naturally they rested Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez for load management, in addition to a smattering of players out due to injury.

What the Thunder did do well – and yet again, uncharacteristically so – was shoot from 3-point range. Thunder record after Thunder record was set: 3-pointers made in a half (14), 3-pointers made in a game (23), and assists in a game (40).

The Thunder punished the Bucks’ zone defense, which left shooters open on the perimeter, so much so that OKC shot over 50 percent from 3-point range in the first half. They were more efficient from beyond the arc than in the paint (9-of-19) before the intermission.

The personal accolades poured in as well. Westbrook claimed his 138th career triple double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 17 assists, tying Magic Johnson for second place all time. Schroder set a new career high with eight 3-pointers. Jerami Grant set a career high with 28 points.

“I think we’ve got things going right now,” Grant said, “and perfect timing for it.”

The Thunder boarded the bus out of the arena still not knowing who it would match up with in the first round of playoffs. But even Schroder, who said down the stretch that it didn’t matter who OKC played, also said he would be checking his phone as the team headed back to Oklahoma City.

“Everybody’s going to do that of course,” Schroder said. "We’re still going to check for sure, just to know and get ready for them.”

Related Photos
<strong>Oklahoma City's Jerami Grant dunks during the Thunder's 127-116 victory in Milwaukee Wednesday night which clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. [AP Photo/Aaron Gash]</strong>

Oklahoma City's Jerami Grant dunks during the Thunder's 127-116 victory in Milwaukee Wednesday night which clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. [AP Photo/Aaron Gash]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9d9b8345c535f8a1adb8b8c0804d7f6a.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City's Jerami Grant dunks during the Thunder's 127-116 victory in Milwaukee Wednesday night which clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. [AP Photo/Aaron Gash] " title=" Oklahoma City's Jerami Grant dunks during the Thunder's 127-116 victory in Milwaukee Wednesday night which clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. [AP Photo/Aaron Gash] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City's Jerami Grant dunks during the Thunder's 127-116 victory in Milwaukee Wednesday night which clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. [AP Photo/Aaron Gash] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-43fdfda90225d2d7dea76a4ce823030d.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant (9) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) " title=" Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant (9) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant (9) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e1ab3d697c8895a7ece9442be6adbbdc.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Steven Adams, left, is fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) " title=" Oklahoma City Thunder's Steven Adams, left, is fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Thunder's Steven Adams, left, is fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash) </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-59e3e0a96a1f557f16011702b535736f.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Raymond Felton, right, drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Raymond Felton, right, drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Raymond Felton, right, drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-468d253d71d71ea169058d9a34003d5f.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Raymond Felton, right, drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Raymond Felton, right, drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Raymond Felton, right, drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-222042d903b8fc0901eea8b5ddddfb0a.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Abdel Nader shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' D.J. Wilson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Abdel Nader shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' D.J. Wilson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Abdel Nader shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' D.J. Wilson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e95c3c3ee4c8dfc709714e45557e83a8.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Steven Adams, left, is fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Steven Adams, left, is fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Steven Adams, left, is fouled by Milwaukee Bucks' Tim Frazier during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0e96fb1c37846b2e90ff73673b6bf541.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Sterling Brown during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Sterling Brown during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Sterling Brown during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4b287319b713503c6da4abe747c80b15.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant (9) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant (9) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant (9) drives to the basket against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-08717eb4a00b4e3fef838eda5e0edfdf.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder shoots against Milwaukee Bucks' Bonzie Colson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a0f2d45933b6b786587b838fce495a10.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder is fouled on a drive to the basket by Milwaukee Bucks' D.J. Wilson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder is fouled on a drive to the basket by Milwaukee Bucks' D.J. Wilson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder is fouled on a drive to the basket by Milwaukee Bucks' D.J. Wilson during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-02ff32901a7c13f27a9c94137673d8bd.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Jerami Grant dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cf6c638166ec128ae872da21894573a7.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson, left, collides with Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson, left, collides with Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson, left, collides with Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)</figcaption></figure>
Maddie Lee

Maddie Lee followed an NBA team from Seattle to Oklahoma City, she just took a 10-year detour in between. Lee joined the Oklahoman in October 2018 as a Thunder beat writer, fresh off a stint in Oxford, Miss., where she covered Ole Miss for the... Read more ›

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