OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant did his usual damage Saturday night in leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 101-85 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
But it wasn't a usual night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Plenty of strange and not-so-strange things happened, such as the Thunder shooting 29 percent in the first half and Bucks center Larry Sanders getting ejected for elbowing Thunder rookie Steven Adams.
But the best thing that happened -- at least from the Bucks perspective -- was 6-foot-10 rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo breaking out of a mini-slump and getting a chance to defend Durant, the U.S. Olympian and four-time NBA all-star.
Durant nearly had a triple-double with 33 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as he helped the Thunder (28-9) snap a two-game skid.
But he admitted after the game he was plenty impressed with Antetokounmpo after getting an up-close-and-personal view.
"He played hard," Durant said. "He gave up his body for his team. I'd go to war with a guy like that any night.
"He's going to be a treat to watch. He's going to keep getting better and gaining experience. That's the best thing for him, just to start him and let him play. He's going to be really good."
Antetokounmpo earned Durant's praise with an energetic 38-minute performance, resulting in 13 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two blocks (both on Durant). It was a needed breakout game for the Greek athlete after he was held scoreless in two of the last three games, including the loss to Chicago on Friday, and scored just two points in the other.
"I'm very excited playing against Durant," Antetokounmpo said. "He's probably the toughest player to defend. He's 6-10 or 6-11. He can shoot; he can handle the ball and he's very explosive.
"I'm just looking for a result. We'll keep fighting. We're still going to play hard in the next game. And I hope we get a win one day."
The Bucks (7-29) dropped their fifth straight game and 13th of their last 15 dating to mid-December. O.J. Mayo and Luke Ridnour each had 16 points off the bench but the Bucks finished shooting just 39.5 percent (32 of 81).
Milwaukee briefly took the lead in the third quarter, first on a three-pointer by Brandon Knight and later on a dunk by Antetokounmpo off an inbounds pass. A three-pointer by Khris Middleton gave the Bucks their last lead at 54-52.
But Durant and reserve guard Jeremy Lamb led the Thunder on a 25-8 spurt to end the quarter and Oklahoma City wound up scoring 39 points in the period to grab a 77-62 lead.
"It got away in the third quarter," said Bucks coach Larry Drew. "I thought defensively we had some breakdowns.
"For most of the game I thought we were on the money as far as defensive execution.
"Part of it was our shot selection in the third quarter where we didn't move the ball real well. We fought back in the fourth quarter but then we had some bad offensive possessions."
The Bucks went on an 11-0 run fueled by eight points from Mayo to cut the Thunder's lead to 81-75 early in the fourth quarter, but again Oklahoma City responded.
"We can play fast-paced, slow it down, win a sloppy game or a low-scoring game," Durant said. "Tonight we didn't get down on ourselves and let it affect our defense."
Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Thunder, Lamb had 17 points and Thabo Sefolosha scored 14.
Adams played just 11 minutes but got into it with Sanders in the second quarter and the Bucks player was called for a flagrant-2 foul after video review, meaning an ejection. The replay showed Sanders twice elbowing Adams in the neck or head after an initial push from the Thunder player.
It continued a pattern of behavior for the 6-foot-11 Sanders, who led the NBA with five ejections last season.
"We knew it was going to be a physical game," Sanders said. "Things got physical out there and the refs had to make a call.
"I think I was maybe a little surprised by his physicality. I haven't seen the replay yet. I just knew it was physical on both ends. It's the refs' job to calm things down, so I think that's what they were trying to do."
Drew said Sanders' behavior has to change.
"You just have to be smarter," Drew said. "You can't get baited or you can't get seduced into that type of activity. I watched it at halftime.
"There was some physical contact but not to the point where he thought he had to throw an elbow. He's got to learn from that."
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