With Lu Dort and Darius Bazley returning from long-term absences, the Oklahoma City Thunder slipped into an identity crisis, falling to the 76ers 117-93. Thunder fans stooling out hope for a top pick, this week has been a dream. With the loss, Oklahoma City’s losing streak has inflated to six (tied for longest in league) while their lottery presence has become legitimate — sitting half-a-game from the fifth best lottery odds at 20-33. 76ers fans turned off their late night contest happy, as Philadelphia has tied the Brooklyn Nets for top spot in the East, with both currently spotted at 36-17.
Darius Bazley showed no sign of injury out the gate, nailing two top-of-the key threes and threading an assist to Moses Brown for the Thunder’s first eight points. The Bazley-Brown duo continued to punish Philadelphia in the frame, tallying the rosters first fourteen points before being extinguished by a Lu Dort three. The 76ers hit their stride as soon as Oklahoma City’s tandem dried up, closing the period on an 18-11 run to elevate 37-25 through one. Aleksej Pokusevski harped to training staff of feeling soreness in his right arm following the period — a note that prompted staff to keep Pokusevski out for the rest of the game.
The Thunder isolated their attacks inside to begin the second, burying their first five field goals in the paint. Dwight Howard didn’t take the challenge lighty, reminiscing his Superman days, hanging in midair to goaltend a Tony Bradley push shot. Philadelphia used Oklahoma City’s one-dimensional offense to their advantage, clogging up the paint while playing aggressive at all three-levels for open looks and free throws — taking a 20 point lead with four to go. The Thunder closed the half on a high note, ending the half down 66-53 off a 14-7 run capped with a Theo Maledon right-corner three as time expired, marking the team’s lone three of the frame.
Both sides shot in the low-fifties for the half, however the 76ers’ stars proved to be too much as Joel Embiid compiled 21 points (7-of-10 FG) while Ben Simmons raked in 12 points (5-of-7 FG.)
Lu Dort found the hot hand to open the third, sourcing the Thunder’s first 7-of-10 points — however, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Oklahoma City played sloppily to the midway point, coughing up seven turnovers through a variety of bad passes and violations, a discourse that yielded yet another 20 point sinkhole. Mark Daigneault made a controversial call inserting his “bench mob” during the drought, but it proved worthwhile. The second unit charged a 14-8 run to close the frame, effectively whittling Philadelphia’s lead to 90-76 entering the fourth.
Oklahoma City’s jitters resurface to begin the fourth, coughing up turnovers on their first three offensive possessions. The Thunder showed a great deal of resilience to crack the 76ers code, but their deficit proved to be too much.
Philadelphia shot worse than Oklahoma City overall (46.8-to-50.0 percent) and outside (31.6-to-40.0 percent) Saturday; however their blowout win came well-earned. The 76ers outshot the Thunder 94-76 leading to an abundance of looks across the roster. Six Philadelphia players cracked double-digits while Joel Embiid tallied 27 points (10-of-17 FG) and 9 rebounds.
Oklahoma City’s additions of Lu Dort and Darius Bazley led to a sea of miscommunication from start to finish — ending the night with 23 turnovers (two off season-high,) Philadelphia on the other hand, only docked 9.
“They’re [Philadelphia is} obviously a really good defensive team, they force you to work for everything,” said Mark Daigneualt.
Darius Bazley totaled a team-high Saturday, leading the Thunder with 17 points (7-of-12), 9 rebounds, and 5 assists in his return. Bazley’s biggest question mark leading into his return came from his three-point shooting. Prior to injury, the 20-year-old shot a paltry 28-percent from distance — in his return, he shot 3-of-4. The point-forwards only true misstep came from handling the basketball as he ended with 9 turnovers through a variety of errant passes and picked pockets.
“I don’t really have an excuse, I just got to take care of the ball better. If they’re going to put me in position to make plays, I got to do better,” said Bazley.
Tony Bradley was packaged away from Philadelphia two weeks ago for George Hill. Hill watched on the 76ers sidelines as Bradley dropped 16 points (7-of-11 FG,) 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks on his former team.
“They know how to play the right way. To experience that when I was with them, it was just something special to watch when I was there,” said Bradley.
Lu Dort added 15 points (6-of-12 FG) and 5 rebounds to the Thunder’s equation, waiting plays formulate at the perimeter before striking. Ty Jerome finished Oklahoma City’s 4-man group with 12 points (4-of-6 FG) while Jaylen Hoard‘s streak of double-digit scoring ended, numbering 8 points.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (20-33) will take Sunday off before facing the league’s top-seeded Utah Jazz (40-13.)