One game can never define a team in a long and grinding NBA season.
The Milwaukee Bucks found themselves on a hot streak coming into Tuesdays game with the Thunder, on the heels of several wins against inferior teams.
While the 109-89 blowout loss does not define the team, it does give a good barometer of where this young Milwaukee squad is in the NBA hierarchy.
The Thunder beat the Bucks in all aspects of the game, and left four reminders of problems this Bucks team faces going forward.
No one has ever accused Brandon Jennings of being a great defender.
This season he has had moments where he has shown great hands in poking a ball loose, and taking it the other way for a basket. But besides those occasional moments, he is really a poor defender.
Westbrook was faster, stronger and tougher than Jennings last night. He drove to the basket at will, dropping 26 points in 26 minutes against the over-matched Jennings.
The Bucks point guard could not slow down Westbrook or even stay in front of him, for that matter.
Jennings was not much better on offense, scoring only 13 points on 12 shots. He tallied just one assist in his 27 minutes.
Jennings has a future in the league, but Russell Westbrook showed him what elite is in the NBA.
Drew Gooden has had a solid offensive year for the Bucks. The regularity in which he hits the 20-foot jumper from the top of the key has been a nice addition to the team.
He is a big who spreads the floor and draws defenders with his perimeter game. He has the ability to go off for 20 points on any given night.
Despite his solid offensive game, he is not a capable defender at the center position. His shot blocking is in non-existent at times. He is slow to rotate and give help from the weak side on driving players. In the first quarter, the Thunder got to the rim at will where there was no Buck help waiting.
Gooden is better suited as a change-of-pace guy to give you an offensive boost off of the bench, similar to Mike Dunleavy.
The player who should be starting at center is Ekpe Udoh. He is young and a little green on offense. But the guy is going to get after it when it comes to blocked shots, and he has the lateral movement to help from the weak side against slashing opponents.
Serge Ibaka showed last night with five blocks in the first quarter what a defensive stopper can do to a team. The Bucks were thinking and hesitating around the rim, which is going to throw off an offense.
Ekpe is no Ibaka yet. But he has the potential to take his game to a whole new level. The Bucks are getting exposed defensively, and putting Udoh in the starting lineup can solve a bit of that problem.
The Thunder got in the Bucks' head last night. The Bucks were assessed five technical fouls in the game, and Larry Sanders was ejected.
There were several moments where it got chippy, as the Thunder had a swagger about them last night. It seemed as though the Bucks were mentally defeated after the first quarter. The other team was showing them up on their own court, and they let it get to them.
Good teams are not going to break mentally against a tough, even cocky opponent.
The Bucks just seemed to lack a willingness to fight. Brandon Jennings basically said he was OK with Westbrook doing his gunslinger taunt in his face after lighting him up for a three-point bomb. Why is he OK with that? Why doesn't it fire him up to not let that happen again.
Get constructively angry!
Play with a purpose rather than crumble in the mental game. The Bucks are young and have some maturing to do. But until they are able to mentally become a strong team, they will struggle with elite-level competition.
There is a reason the Thunder are the best team in the NBA. There is also a reason the Bucks are fighting for the eighth seed in the playoffs.
The Thunder are a complete team. They do nearly everything well and have been on a mission lately after losing three in a row. They are simply on a different level than the Bucks.
They have stars and role players that know what is expected of them. The team was built in the right way through the draft, and they're going to be good for a very long time.
The Bucks are a team still trying to learn to play together. The team lacks a true identity, and the roles for players can change nightly.
The Bucks have potential in many players, but the Thunder reminded the Bucks of their station in the NBA.
The Milwaukee Bucks still have a good chance of making the playoffs. But as they learned against the Thunder, they are going to struggle against the great teams. All the Bucks can do at this point is try to learn from every game.
The Thunder gave the Bucks a much-needed trip back to reality to see that they have a long way to go to take the next step as a team. Hopefully, they realize it and will be stronger going forward.
Thanks for the read! What was your reaction to the Thunder blowing out the Bucks?