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The game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and The Washington Basketball Team played out exactly as you’d expect it to with very few surprises.
The Wizards are bad. Knew that.
The Thunder came out with more energy and focus after dropping a game against the winless Grizz to whip the winless Wiz. Saw it coming a mile away.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a big bounce back game with an 18-7-6 line on 50% shooting. Totally obvious Shai would get himself right facing the fizzy Wiz.
Danilo Gallinari was hyper efficient with 20 points on 8 shots. Ho hum.
Chris Paul was a team high +26. Boring.
Lu Dort was everywhere, making hustle plays, saving balls out of bounds, gobbling boards and playing suffocating defense. Moving on.
Darius Bazley scored a career high 23 points on 8-13 shooting, including 5-8 from 3. Wait, what in the blessed name of Alex Abrines did I just say?
For those readers who are easily triggered by overeager, early, excessive hype brought on by a one game sample size from an up and down rookie, consider this is your warning. The Baze Train is now leaving the station.
It’s not just that Bazley smashed his previous career high of 17 points, it’s the overall package he showed off while doing it. Every 3 he hit was smooth, in rhythm and was released with full confidence. The prettiest of them all was a full speed step back, jump back 3 he drilled. He had two nice drives to the rim beginning at the top of the arc and finished with long armed Shai styled scoops. He knocked down both his free throw attempts.
Bazley is tantalizing because of his skillset and his physical tools. The rookie is 6’8” with a 7 foot wingspan, but he can handle the ball, jump out of the gym, has a knack for boards and blocks, and he has shown flashes of playmaking ability. If he adds a legitimate 3 pointer to his arsenal, the Thunder hit the jackpot at the end of the draft.
Okay, so he had a great game. But what has Bubble Bazley looked like as a whole? Through five games, Darius has averaged 10.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 41.7% from 3 and 100% free throw shooting in 25 minutes per game.
Those are all massive increases from his season averages of 5.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, 32.3% from 3 and 71.7% free throw shooting in 17.9 minutes per game. Bazley has scored over double digits in three of five games.
Did Bazley take a leap over the hiatus? It’s far too early to call it, but the early results are promising.
Now, this all comes with the usual caveats.
We’re talking a 1 and 5 game sample size. The one game sample was against the tizzy Wiz. He’s been very up and down all season. Darius still has the stigma of being the #23 overall pick.
But how about some reverse caveats?
Bazley just turned 20 years old. He didn’t play any organized ball for a year. Then he had his rookie year interrupted by 4 ½ months. Darius was the #13 overall prospect of his entire high school class in the country. Chris Paul believes in him, why can’t we?
Maybe we all witnessed Darius Bazley’s coming out party. Or maybe this will go down as one of the best games of his career, much like Terrance Ferguson’s epic 6 3’s game against the Lakers his rookie season. One thing is for sure. Bazley’s break out was the most surprising, fun and best thing about the Thunder’s glorified shooting drill against the dizzy Wiz.
- The Thunder are on a Bubble Seesaw: win, loss, win, loss, win. The Miami Heat are shook.
- Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel and Andre Roberson all missed the game due to various injuries. None of them are serious.
- There’s whispers going around Twitter courtesy of Oklahoma City Digest that Schroder will return today (Monday) to the Bubble. Supposedly, Dennis told the fans in his virtual crowd section. If so, I think it’s hilarious the virtual fans outscooped the local media, that includes me, on the Schroder news.
- Bazley scores his career high and isn’t even old enough to pop some champagne to celebrate it.
- Fun math: Bazley’s 32.3% 3 point shooting may not seem impressive, but it’s better than Paul George’s rookie numbers, equal to Trae Young’s rookie season and better than Luka Doncic’s current season.
- Dennis Schroder, never one to miss the opportunity to steal his teammates’ spotlights, made a cameo appearance with his son Junior in the virtual crowd.
- Darius Bazley mentioned in the postgame media call that he’s ambidextrous. Russell Westbrook is also ambidextrous. Baze plays with his left hand but he’s naturally right handed. Russ plays with his right hand but he’s naturally left handed.
- Thunder centers Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel have 3 combined career 3 pointers in 887 games played. Thunder center Mike Muscala had three 3 pointers in the first 4:17 against Washington.
- Seriously, though, Moose needs minutes. He’s a vet that can space, shoot, grab boards and play smart ball.
- Shai remembered he can’t be stopped when he drives to the basket. All of his 18 points were generated at the rim.
- Hamidou Diallo continues his surprisingly strong Disney play. Hami scored 13 points on 5-7 shooting and grabbed 6 rebounds.
- Dort was 1 point and CP3 was 1 assist away from double doubles.
- Bazley deservedly will get all the buzz from this one, but Dort continues to look like he belongs.
- Unless something crazy happens, the Thunder are likely playing Russ and the Rockets in the 1st round. It really seems like a Hollywood screenwriter with a twisted sense of humor is scripting the Thunder storylines.
- Up next: Thunder vs the 5-0 Bubble Suns. The game tips as soon as you get back from your lunch break today.