Battling to the end, the Oklahoma City Thunder cut their deficit to the Indiana Pacers to just a point off a huge Moses Brown dunk with about five minutes left to play in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Though they were unable to finish out the game, extending their current losing streak to 12 games, the Thunder remain competitive in the absence of their Canadian playmakers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Luguentz Dort.
A big reason they’ve kept games close over their road trip has been the return of the aggressive side of one of their young assets, and the emergence of a former G-League big to dominate the paint.
The former of that duo, Darius Bazley, continued his aggressive play, again tying his career high with 26 points. Attacking the paint to get to the free throw line, his inefficient shooting kept him from earning one of the two game balls up for grabs from OKC’s 122-116 loss to the Pacers.
Game Ball: Moses Brown
Oklahoma City logged a season-high 76 points in the paint, with Brown contributing 12 of those. Where the former UCLA center really proved worthwhile however was on the boards. Pulling down 11 rebounds, Brown grabbed six offensive boards, giving the Thunder ample opportunity to tack on second chance points.
Brown also added a pair of steals, doing his part to help protect the rim against an undersized and shorthanded Pacers squad. Since Brown’s introduction to the lineup, he’s given OKC a presence they’ve missed, anchoring the defense as a more traditional rim protector. His effort on both ends has led to an uptick in rebounding for the young Thunder, cutting their opponents’ opportunities to extend possessions against Oklahoma City.
Game Ball: Kenrich Williams
Nights like Wednesday are why Kenrich Williams has carved himself out a role in the NBA for future seasons. Providing a burst off the bench, Williams scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including a nice 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point range.
The former TCU Horned Frog didn’t stop there however, going on to pull down seven rebounds, dish out two assists, swipe two steals and even log a block. Williams is the prime candidate to replace Hamidou Diallo’s energy off the bench in years to come, as you know you’re always going to get maximum effort from him. He did turn the ball over three times, but that was the only demerit on what was otherwise an incredibly productive night from the bench scorer.
The Thunder will need big performances from both Williams and Brown as they host Russell Westbrook’s Washington Wizards, winners of six straight, Friday night inside the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Tip-off between OKC and Washington is slated for 7 p.m.