The way we tend to define great teams can either start or end with how many future Hall of Famers happen to be on a roster.
This narrow definition usually leaves out teams like the Milwaukee Bucks because they have only one of those future Hall of Famers: Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Bucks are more than good. They are, indeed, a great basketball team. Thirty-five of their 51 wins this season have been double-digit victories.
The Bucks should not be disqualified from The Greatness Conversation. They were every bit as great in their 133-86 demolishing of the Thunder on Friday night.
On to Friday night’s Takeaways:
1. It Would Have Been A Miracle If The Thunder Won
Friday was the Thunder’s fifth game in eight days.
Their last two games were of the heart-stopping variety: Keeping the Bulls at bay on their final possession and pulling off a 19-point comeback over the Kings.
Oklahoma City’s reward? A road game versus the Association’s best team in the second game of a back-to-back. And Danilo Gallinari would be out with an ankle injury.
The nine-game road winning streak didn’t stand a chance.
2. Even Without An All-Star, Milwaukee’s Bench Picked Up The Slack
Milwaukee was without forward Khris Middleton, its other 2020 NBA All-Star, due to a sore neck and it did not matter.
The Bucks have a Greek Freak, but their roster full of versatile specialists are what separates them from the rest of the NBA.
If George Hill didn’t turn the ball over the one time, he would have had a flawless 19 minutes of basketball with 14 points (4-for-4 shooting), six assists, five rebounds and a steal.
Pat Connaughton, an athletic and capable outside shooter, made four 3-pointers in 18 minutes.
Robin Lopez (12 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 16 minutes) outplayed his starting teammate and twin brother, Brook, with less time on the floor (2-for-11 shooting in 18 minutes).
And as the video below shows, the Bucks weren’t the only big winner Friday in Milwaukee:
3. Monitoring SGA’s Playing Time
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continues to be one of the NBA’s pleasant surprises.
While he only logged 27 minutes in the blowout against the Bucks, it’s important to keep an eye on just how much SGA plays.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s 2,097 minutes played were the most of anyone in the NBA entering Friday night. For further context, SGA was in the NBA’s top 10 in minutes per game (35.5).
Gilgeous-Alexander is 21 years old, but his age does not mean he cannot catch a case of late-season fatigue.
When the Thunder take the floor Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, it will be March.
If OKC wants to not only have a chance to make the playoffs and potentially win a first-round series in April, it will need a healthy and refreshed SGA.