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Villanueva, Bucks ruin Thunder debut

Oct 30, 2008 - 5:02 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- It was a festive scene as the Oklahoma City Thunder made their regular-season debut, but the Milwaukee Bucks crashed the party.

Charlie Villanueva had 20 points and 12 rebounds as the Bucks led from the start en route to a 98-87 victory over the Thunder on Wednesday.

Michael Redd and Richard Jefferson added 20 points apiece for Milwaukee, which bounced back from a 108-95 loss in Chicago on Tuesday - the NBA's Opening Night.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett were on hand for the pregame festivities as the franchise celebrated its first game here since moving from Seattle this offseason.

"I think the energy in the arena contributed to our start, but that's not the reason we played poorly," Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "We didn't play as well as we needed and wanted to play and not as good as these fans deserved us to play. We're capable of playing a lot better than we did tonight, but we just didn't do it."

The Bucks extinguished the energy in the Ford Center early on as Villanueva, Jefferson and Andrew Bogut led the visitors on an 18-7 run to open the game.

"We got something going with Andrew early, but our defense was active," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We were able to rebound and get out of the break a bit, so for one night at least it came together well for us."

The young Thunder appeared tense early, knocking down just 4-of-16 field-goal attempts and committing five turnovers as they fell behind, 24-14, after the first quarter.

"I think they might have come out a bit too amped up, and all the emotion played against them early and we took advantage of it," Jefferson said. "We were able to build a 20-point lead before they made their run. We knew they were going to make a run, they got it going a for a little bit but we made the plays to win."

After a less-than-stellar debut against the Bulls that saw him connect on 5-of-17 from the field for 15 points, Jefferson shot 5-of-10 from the field and made 8-of-9 free-throw attempts.

The win was the first for Skiles with Milwaukee. He joined the Bucks in the offseason after he was dismissed from Chicago just 25 games into last campaign.

"It felt good to bounce back after last night, I was very proud of the way we played," Skiles said. "We had a lot of energy, I thought overall our defense was great, and we played real well."

Kevin Durant, who went scoreless on 0-of-4 shooting in the first half with three turnovers, finished with 12 points on 5-of-14 from the field.

"I didn't play that great to start out," the second-year swingman from Texas said. "I got into a rhythm in the second half, got some buckets, got some rebounds and was starting to get into the groove of the game. We've just got to get things going earlier."

Chris Wilcox led the Thunder with 15 points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Oklahoma City's crowd had few reasons to cheer in the opener, but it was brought to its feet when Oklahoma State product Desmond Mason finished with a thunderous dunk late in the third quarter.

"I just wanted to bring energy and get guys involved," Wilcox said. "Tonight was a test for us, and we didn't do so well. Hopefully we can build off of this and get better. Desmond played well off the bench, Russell Westbrook gave us a spark late that we really needed. We got a lot of good minutes, good points, and effort from our second team."

A late 20-8 run, sparked by nine points from Westbrook, the No. 4 overall draft pick, pulled the Thunder within 11, but they would get no closer. A rookie point guard out of UCLA, Westbrook scored 13 off the bench.

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