Bucks surge past Thunder 95-89 in finale
Posted at: 04/18/2013 1:35 AM
By JEFF LATZKE
(AP) OKLAHOMA CITY - With the Milwaukee Bucks locked into a playoff spot and starting center Larry Sanders nursing a troublesome back, rookie John Henson used the final stretch of the regular season as a big chance to prove himself.
What the first-round draft pick has shown is plenty of potential.
Henson scored a career-high 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, Brandon Jennings had 17 points and the Bucks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 95-89 Wednesday night in a regular-season finale lacking any postseason implications.
Henson, the 14th pick in last year’s draft, came up with another huge game after getting 17 points, 25 rebounds and seven blocks in an overtime loss at Orlando a week earlier.
"It means a lot. Guys got hurt down the stretch, so it’s my job as a professional in the NBA to come in and the level of play not go down," Henson said. "That’s what I’ve just been trying to do."
Needing to score 70 points to surpass New York’s Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant conceded the NBA scoring title and joined starting center Kendrick Perkins and key reserves Kevin Martin and Nick Collison in suits on the Thunder bench.
Russell Westbrook extended the NBA’s longest active consecutive games played streak to 394 by playing the first 7 minutes, helping the Thunder score the game’s first seven points and build a 20-9 lead.
The Bucks didn’t pull ahead until Henson’s two-handed slam early in the fourth quarter, during a 27-6 run. He logged 44 minutes and made 11 of 19 shots, showing off a hook shot, and collecting eight offensive rebounds.
"He’s one of those guys that just seems to be able to fill that stat sheet," coach Jim Boylan said. "At the end of the game, you always look and he’s got some big numbers. It was good for him."
Henson hit a jumper and a pair of free throws to start an 11-0 run that ended with Ish Smith’s 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie it at 68 with 32.2 seconds left in the third quarter.
Milwaukee kept going in the final period, as the Thunder missed nine of their first 10 shots, and led by as much as 14.
"John was great. Any time you can get John out on the floor and give him some experience, no matter who he’s playing against, that’s a good thing," Boylan said.
Reggie Jackson led Oklahoma City with a career-best 23 points. The Thunder were already locked into the top seed in the Western Conference and will open the playoffs at home Sunday against Houston and James Harden, who was traded away before the season.
Oklahoma City dropped to 34-7 at home and ended the season with 60 wins, the fourth-best total in franchise history.
"We’re good. I think the confidence is high," starting guard Thabo Sefolosha said. "We’ve been playing well lately. ... We’ve been there before but every postseason is different, so we’re just going to have to be real focused."
The Bucks, who were assured of the East’s No. 8 seed, rested Sanders and fellow starter Ersan Ilyasova (wrist). They will play Sunday at defending champion Miami.
"We’ve got the best team, obviously the No. 1 seed in Miami," Henson said. "We’ll go down there this weekend and try to play them tough."
Jennings gave the Bucks a scare, twisting his ankle and hobbling off the court in the first quarter. But he was able to return early in the second quarter and made five of his first six 3-point attempts.
"Brandon seems to be one of those guys that you see him and he’s not that big and then he goes down, and you say to yourself, `Oh, no.’ But he always seems to bounce back up," Boylan said. "So, he’s got a big heart."
"It was a big relief, a big relief to see him come back in," he added.
Notes: The Bucks’ last visit to Oklahoma City also came in a regular-season finale, in 2011, that also had little meaning. The Thunder had clinched a playoff berth and Milwaukee was eliminated from postseason contention prior to a 110-106 victory in Michael Redd’s final game with the franchise. ... While sitting out the finale, Durant became the eighth player in NBA history who made at least 50 percent of his field goals, 40 percent of his 3-pointers and 90 percent of his free throws while playing in at least 87.5 percent of his team’s games, according to STATS. The others are Steve Nash (four times), Larry Bird (twice), Reggie Miller, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Kerr, Mark Price and Jose Calderon. Kerr and Calderon each had fewer than 150 free-throw attempts when they did it. ... A banner commemorating Oklahoma City’s Northwest Division title was unveiled in the rafters.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)