With the Oklahoma City Thunder eyeing the worst stretch in their franchise’s history, previously losing 14-straight games with a depleted roster, Tuesday night’s 119-115 win over the playoff-hopeful Boston Celtics was the biggest ray of light the franchise has seen in 28 days.
Granted, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker didn’t play against the Thunder, but Jaylen Brown did and so did Marcus Smart and Payton Pritchard as well. That alone should be more than enough firepower to top the Thunder. It wasn’t, and that’s partly thanks to Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort, who are the only two guys we’d consider “sure things” for the Thunder moving forward.
Those two second-year players put the team on their backs throughout the game, but at different times. Dort was a consistent force on both ends of the floor and that’s something we’ve grown to expect out of him. What put the Thunder over the top was Bazley, who played a very unaggressive, lackluster third quarter, just scoring one point on 0-of-3 shooting.
Right after that tweet, Baze hit the first shot of the fourth quarter and started feeling it, even talking noise to the Celtics sideline after netting his second triple of the game. There was something about Bazley that felt different tonight. You could tell the Thunder wanted to win this game, but they couldn’t have accomplished it without gaudy numbers from Bazley and Dort.
When asked if he or his teammates knew about the 14-game losing streak tying a franchise record for consecutive losses, Isaiah Roby expressed that he didn’t notice and doesn’t think his teammates knew either.
Dort countered that in the ensuing interview saying, “Actually I saw it today. I told Shai, ‘Yo, we winning today.”
That tells us where Dort’s head was, which is refreshing to see from a young player who knows what the franchise’s plans are for the season. It’s refreshing to see a guy want to win like Dort did tonight.
Dort finished the game with 24 points on 5-of-14 shooting and 11-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line. He also played a vital role in holding the Celtics to an 11-of-49 shooting night from three.
Bazley on the other hand has been spectacular since he returned to the lineup on April 10 but has been on a tear over the last five games, averaging 21.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. He notched a double-double against the Celtics with 21 points and 10 rebounds while adding four assists and a block.
Bazley iced the game for the Thunder, while Lu Dort was the anchor through the entire game, per usual. OKC’s now 21-40 on the season and are only a half-game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fifth-best odds to land the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.