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Darius Bazley’s career-high not enough as Thunder sink to Wizards 119-107

With Lu Dort out with an apparent hip injury, the Oklahoma City Thunder struggled to pass the Washington Wizards, slipping 119-107. The Thunder’s losing-streak grew to eleven given Monday’s loss as their 20-38 record moves them just 1.5 games back from the fourth-best lottery odds. Claiming the victory, Washington has now made serious strides at a potential play-in run now riding a four-game win streak on a 24-33 record, tying the Chicago Bulls for the tenth seed in the East.

The Washington Wizards hit the ground running on a 15-6 run in the night’s first three minutes, highlighted by a four-point swing from a Raul Neto layup and off an errant Pokusevski inbound — a Beal basket. The Thunder rallied towards Bazley, Pokusevski, and Williams to sound a comeback, as the three-man crew scored the team’s first 19 points to cut the hole to six. Mark Daigneault’s insertion of the second unit dried up success as the Wizards drew up an 11-4 spurt to reclaim a double-digit lead, retaining their grasp up 38-25. Oklahoma City’s major concerns rooted at the foul line as their 10 personal fouls netted Washington 12 free throws, burying 9.

The Thunder’s deficit continued to pile in the second frame’s infancy stages as passing miscues coupled with given up threes led themselves down 15 three minutes in. Baskets exchanged hands for the following four minutes but upon Oklahoma City’s starters returning, the lead shrunk to single-digits off of six-consecutive points. Moses Brown’s reappearance remained brief as at the 4-minute, 52-second mark, he posted his fourth foul — resulting in his removal. Aleksej Pokusevski flashed a Shaq’ Tin’ a Fool moment airballing a wide-open midrange shortly after Brown was pulled, but on his very next drive the 19-year-old threw a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Tony Bradley as he slashed inside. In efforts to shut down the lane, Alex Len folded Darius Bazley after he pulled a side-step move to try and work inside — the foul garnered a flagrant one. The Thunder’s snowball kept rolling until the bitter end of the half, whittling the game down to one after Pokusevski and Maledon drilled left-wing threes. Ultimately, Oklahoma City’s perimeter shooting bled onto Davis Bertans to cap the period as he canned a 27-foot triple at the buzzer to hoist Washington up 64-58.

Oklahoma City shot 45-percent while Washington converted on 57-percent of first-half shots. On paper, this stat alone should’ve held Washington up big, but the Thunder shot 8-of-18 (44.4%) outside to the Wizards mere 3-of-12 (25%) clip — percentages equaled out. Both sides played pass-heavy offense with the Thunder and Wizards posting 16 and 17 assists respectively, though, with Oklahoma City’s 12-6 turnover margin, Washington received a sea of opportunity. With it, they ran right into the defense for 18 Thunder fouls, a number that surfaced 23 free throw tries, almost double that of OKC’s (12.)

The Wizards hauled a quick 7-0 run to amass a 13-point lead three minutes in. At the four-minute mark, Oklahoma City cracked the door to single-digits after a Svi Mykhaliuk three, but it only sprouted Washington to sink three triples to recover their 13-point advantage, resulting in a Mark Daigneault timeout. The Thunder managed to close the frame on a 6-0 run to seal an 88-81 deficit, capping the frame off a Svi Mykhailiuk coast-to-coast finger roll teed off with a tenth-of-a-second left.

Mark Daigneault’s second unit carried the heavy-lifting in the fourth quarter onset, blitzing the Wizards with a 9-4 run en route to a one-possession game wielding nine minutes. Scott Brooks made a puzzling decision to enlist Robin Lopez into play following a timeout — it paid off. Lopez immediately rattled two straight inside shots before a Beal and Bertans three laid a seven-point cushion in a run lasting just over a minute. Washington’s three-level scoring became infectious post-run as even Russell Westbrook got involved from outside, pushing a 114-105 lead with a little over three to go. Robin Lopez of all players sounded the final bell for the night, scoring for straight to catapult the Wizards up double-digits, and carry a baker’s dozen lead at the horn.

Washington netted five members in double-digits, and as expected, their stars led the way. Bradley Beal tallied a game-high 30 points (12-21 FG) while tacking on 3 steals to his night. Russell Westbrook recorded a familiar sight, dropping a triple-double of 13 points (5-of-18 FG,) 11 rebounds, and 17 assists in 39 minutes. Davis Bertans and Robin Lopez played unsung heroes in the contest recording 21 and 17 points respectively.

Oklahoma City’s issues rested in the turnover column for the third time this week as they coughed up 19 possessions while assisting on just 23 field goals. In terms of physicality, the Thunder’s game was an oddity from a stat perspective. The Thunder stood gritty against the Wizards all night but only had two blocks to show for it, on the flipside, they numbered a season-high 26 fouls yielding 29 Wizards free throws.

Outside of the Thunder’s collective mishaps, the team still rallied together for six men in double-figures. Darius Bazley achieved a career-high 26 points (7-of-19 FG) and 7 rebounds Monday, using a platter of interior moves to get inside. Amongst Bazley’s key stats, his most jaw-dropping accolade came from the line as the 20-year-old shot 11-of-13 from the stripe, almost eclipsing half of the team’s total attempts (27.) To put a cherry on Baze’s night, the 20-year-old took a defensive assignment against Russell Westbrook for a full 48-minutes, never letting up the gas.

“He [Bazley] was awesome. He was big time. Let’s start with the fact, back-to-backs, we get in 3 am and tonight he goes minute for minute with Westbrook. We matched his minutes with Russell,” said Mark Daigneault.

Tony Bradley rallied up 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, using his graceful touch around the basket to scrap out potential baskets. Bradley’s role became magnified due to Moses Brown’s early foul trouble, and it’s safe to say he delivered. Moses Brown never truly immersed himself into play given his foul quick whistles as for the second-straight game he shot 0-of-3 failing to etch a basket.

Theo Maledon garnered Lu Dort’s ball-handling duties in his absence Monday looking like he never lost a beat. The 19-year-old posted 14 points (5-of-15 FG), 7 rebounds, and 5 assists on the night while dialing up 2-of-5 threes. Kenrich Williams gelled with Theo in the starting unit swinging in 15 points (5-of-10) and 7 rebounds while also shooting a hot 2-of-4 from outside. After a previous rough week for both Maledon and Williams, their strong performances should be a great starting point to bounce back into full swing.

Ty Jerome and Svi Mykhailiuk have formed a budget “Splash Brothers” as of late with both men draining 3-of-5 triples in the contest to both piece 11-point games. Jerome and Mykhailiuk both had their moments with the rock as Jerome swished a 33-footer and 30-footer in a span of two minutes while Svi caught all of his point in the second half.

The Oklahoma City Thunder (20-38) will take Tuesday off before facing the Indiana Pacers (26-31) in game three-of-four in their road-trip.

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