Thunder forward Darius Bazley doesn’t have the reputation for defense his teammate Luguentz Dort does.
But on a career-night when he splashed 26 points, his offense wasn’t the best part of his game.
Bazley guarded franchise legend Russell Westbrook for over eight minutes in Monday’s contest against the Wizards, holding him to 2-for-10 from the field.
The triple-double aficionado of course still had 17 assists and 11 rebounds to go along with his 13 points, but Bazley’s defense was game-changing nonetheless.
“He was awesome, he was big time.” Head coach Mark Daigneault said following the Wizards loss. “Let’s start with the fact, back-to-backs, we get in at 3 am and tonight he goes minute for minute with Westbrook.”
After a bit of an underwhelming start to the season offensively, Bazley has begun to heat up on that end.
Whether it be newfound opportunity or getting into his groove, the lengthy lefty is averaging 17.8 points while shooting 44 percent from the field in six games back from a fractured scapula.
Regardless, Bazley will always be able to impact the game with his defense.
Oklahoma City’s Kenrich Williams had high praise for Bazley following the loss to Washington.
“Baze has been amazing,” Williams said. “Him being able to guard multiple positions like that, and go down and carry some of the load offensively, that’s going to be big for his development — Baze is gonna be great.”
The 20-year-old has had more good defensive performances than he’s been given credit for.
He held Aaron Gordon to 3-for-10 shooting in eight minutes this season. Pistons rookie Saddiq Bey, who’s having a terrific NBA debut, was held to 3-for-10 shooting in over eight minutes by Bazley.
Portland’s Carmelo Anthony shot 0-for-6 and Miami’s Jimmy Butler shot 3-for-10 in five minutes with the second-year guarding them. The list goes on and on.
“I was excited for the opportunity,” Bazley said in the postgame. “I was a bit surprised when coach said I was matched to him. I thought I did okay. I know I’m not going to hold anybody to zero points.”