Despite Lu Dort returning from a three-game absence, the Oklahoma City Thunder still fell to the Washington Wizards 129-109 Friday evening. The Thunder spiraled to their 13th consecutive loss with the recent misfire while tacking onto a 20-39 record, good for fifth in lottery odds (1.5 GB of fourth.) The Wizards reflect the polar opposite of the Thunder as with the win, they now are the hottest team in the league on a seven-game streak, a run that slots themselves tenth in the East with a 26-33 record.
From the onset of Friday’s game it became clear that this game would be a dogfight. Oklahoma City and Washington matched field goal for field goal from the jump — with neither side being able to tally two-consecutive scoring possessions unanswered until the 6-minute, 7-second mark in the frame when a Beal three coupled with an Alex Len layup housed the Wizards up 21-14. Upon Washington’s streak ender, the Thunder fired right back sounding off two consecutive threes and a pair of Lu Dort free throws to recollect the torch. Oklahoma City’s topped at 16-5 as the clock eclipsed two minutes, but a last second Chandler Hutchinson left-corner three capsized the Thunder’s advantage, stealing the period 36-35.
Russell Westbrook hit his stride to start the second, compounding the Wizards’ first 11-of-13 points. Even with Westbrook’s success, the six minutes it took for him to piece his showing opened the door for the Thunder bench mob — who outran Washington’s one-man show for a midway lead. In the midst of Oklahoma City’s run, Moses Brown collected his third and fourth personal fouls in a span of 40 seconds, a gesture that led to the 21-year-old mouthing off to an official — ending in a technical foul. With the Wizards’ newfound ammo, their second superstar Bradley Beal popped off, ironing out 8-straight for Washington while in the process, rekindling a lead. The Thunder struck a period-closing heatwave after Davis Bertans racked up his own tech for complaining to officials, and at the halftime ending they were out just 70-68.
The Wizards jumped the Thunder off a 15-3 spurt to begin the frame while shooting the ball at an uber-efficient 6-of-8 clip (3-of-3 3pt.) Oklahoma City imitated the Wizards draining their next three shots from distance, but Russell Wetbrook wasn’t letting loose, adding four more points to 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists at the midway mark. Oklahoma City surfaced an abundance of scorers upon Westbrook’s removal — but a strong 6-2 Wizards ending kept them up double-digits 100-90 entering the fourth.
Russell Westbrook accumulated a triple-double off the fourth quarter’s first possession, and it set the groundwork for what was to come. The Wizards assorted a well-orchestrated inside-out game to reach a 17-point lead after six-minutes, and with an assertive run for the Thunder — Washington maintained their double-digit lead in safe fashion. Even despite the outcome etched in stone, neither Daigneault nor Brooks pulled their starters in the sunset stages until the two-minute mark when Russell Westbrook mouthed off to the Thunder bench — ending with a technical foul.
With a large scoring discrepancy, this game at first glance had the looks of an easy blow-out, that was far from it. Given Friday’s four technical fouls and collective 40 personal fouls (23 WAS, 17 OKC) this game hosted a 48-minute scrapyard. In this tussle, there was no major flare-up in the game, but with a culmination of arguments with the official, Beal and Westbrook staredowns, and even Westbrook kicking the ball from Maledon in efforts to inbound — tension was clearly brewing.
In venturing into conspiracy theorist tettority, Scott Brooks showed “a little disappointment in Loud City” after watching Russell Westbrook receive a standing ovation in his return to ‘Peake, while he… also got a standing ovation — just a not a very good one. Based on his ending rotation, he, no holds barred, backed a game thrashing to get back at? Zero fans.
Even with a questionable ending rotation, one thing was certain — it yielded results. The Wizards shot a blistering 18-of-34 (56.3%) from distance while hounding the Thunder 57-47 on the glass.
In glaring fashion, Washington’s superstar tandem of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal essentially supercharged the Wizards to the promised land. Westbrook in his Peake’ debut as a Wizard netted game-highs in points, rebounds, and assists with 37 points (14-of-23 FG), 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Westbrook looked right at home Friday blazing into the interior for layups while also dragging in defenders for perimeter situations, even postering his signature midrange pull-up game on multiple occasions. Bradley Beal played sidekick to Westbrook carrying the heavy-lifting with 33 points (12-of-24 FG), 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. In extra roles, both Raul Neto and Davis Bertans drained a combined 7 threes en route to respective 15 and 12 point nights.
Oklahoma City harvested a quartet of high-volume scorers Friday, but with a lowly 10-of-33 (30.3%) three-point clinic and a miniscule 26-of-60 performance (43.3%) inside — their 12 steals and 21-of-25 free-throw piecing couldn’t cover the difference.
Darius Bazley extended his 20-point streak to three with 20 points (6-of-12 FG,) 6 rebounds, and 5 steals in 32 minutes. Bazley’s biggest question mark leading into Friday’s contest rested in his three-point shot. In his last two 26-point games, the perimeter did not work in his favor — but as the saying goes, the third time was indeed the charm. The 20-year-old pieced a well-rounded night in which he went head-hunting inside for baskets, shot a team high 8 free throws (5-of-8), and ironed a 3-of-5 outside night.
Theo Maledon maneuvered into the 20-point club with 20 points (5-of-11 FG) and 8 assists on the night. Maledon relished his ball-handling role going a red-hot 4-of-6 from distance while charging in for a 6-of-7 night from the stripe. Maledon’s pristine analysis on opposing defenders has glistened in since his promotion to the starting lineup as his flurry of cross-court passes and pick-and-roll decisions have caught defenders in a frenzy.
Isaiah Roby split time at the four and five for his second-straight game, and with a statline of 18 points (8-of-16) and 8 rebounds, it’s fair to say his insertion paid off. Roby’s 28 minutes didn’t go smooth sailing however as he was the recipient of second-quarter beatdown from Mark Daigneualt, who fresh off timeout — let loose on the forward for a pair of missed screen reads.
Even with the early quarrel, Mark Daigneault was quick to acknowledge Roby’s effort saying, “I thought he [Roby] was really good offensively… They played traditional fives and we thought we had a little bit of an advantage offensively using him as a spacer, getting his driving into the game. “ Adding “Offensively, he was good. He was aggressive. Got a couple shots to go down and had good drives and kicks.”
Lu Dort ended with 18 points (5-of-15 FG) on the game but with an errant 1-of-7 conversion rate outside, his shot of taking control dwindled. Moses Brown was expected to build upon his latest double-double performance, but the 21-year-old was denied at the Wizards’ hands again for the second time this week. Brown numbered just 2 points (1-of-2 FG) and 1 rebound in 6 minutes Friday before being pulled after his fourth foul, sprinkled with a tech. Tony Bradley played a mere 11 minutes in a backup role to Roby, only accumulating 4 points (2-of-4 FG) and 3 rebounds.
Next up, the Oklahoma City Thunder (20-40) will face the Philadelphia 76ers (39-20) Monday night. This match will either tie the Thunder’s franchise losing-streak, or sprout the beginning of a potential turnaround.