In a Saturday night matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers, Darius Bazley and Lu Dort made their return to action, but still fell short for the sixth-straight contest.
When it was all said and done at Chesapeake Energy Arena, the Thunder fell 117-93. Bazley came out hot offensively, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. He finished with a team-high 36 minutes, which impressed Thunder Head Coach Mark Daigneault. “I give him a lot of credit because he is back earlier than we expected,” said Daigneault. “It's a credit to the work he put in.”
Dort showed his typical defensive efficiency, but also produced 15 points points and five rebounds.
It was Dort's first game back since March 27 (concussion) and Bazley's first since March 4 (left shoulder).
It was a game that was never particularly close, with Philadelphia leading by as many as 20-points in the first half. Joel Embiid, as expected, had his way against young Thunder centers Moses Brown and Tony Bradley. The MVP cantidate finished with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists in just 27 minutes. Bradley, who was traded from Philadelphia to Oklahoam City at the recent trade deadline, had one of his better games in a Thunder uniform, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds, notching his first double-double with the team.
Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokusevski looked uncomfortable in warmups with what appeared to be a right arm issue. After just eight minutes of action, the 19-year-old went back to the locker room and would be ruled out for the remainder of the game. After being one of the best players for Oklahoma City over the past handful of games, Pokusevski finished with three rebounds and zero points. Daigneault after the game gave Pokusevski credit, saying he was impressed with him giving it a go even with the sore arm. As usual, he will be evaluated in the morning before the team gives an update.
Turnovers killed the Thunder, totalling 23 on the night resulting in 32 points for the Sixers. While it yet was another lopsided game in favor of Oklahoma City's opponent, there were plenty of small positive takeaways. The Thunder bench outscored the Sixers 47 to 43 behind Bradley and Ty Jerome's solid outings, combining for 28 points. Additionally, newly-signed two-way player Jaylen Hoard finished with 8 points in 24 minutes.
The Thunder (20-33) will now head to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz Tuesday night before returning to Oklahoma City for a home game against the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday. It will be another opportuity for Bazley to show the potential of being a franchise cornerstone. Getting back on the court is certainly something he's been looking forward to.
“It felt good,” said Bazley with a smile. “To not play since All-Star, and to now be able to play, I was just itching. Nothing compares to actually really being on the floor to compete. It felt good being back out there.”