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And the crowd goes… mild!
The Thunder beat the Heat because their 20 year old rookie led a 22 point 4th quarter comeback, and their prized offseason free agent acquisition hit a game winning 3. OKC secured a top 5 seed in the playoffs, a spot higher than last season when they had two superstars on the team.
All of Thunder fandom should be celebrating a thrilling victory led by the youngest player on the roster, right?
While half of the OKC fanbase are overjoyed by their team’s 17th win after trailing after 3 quarters, the other half are a mix of disappointed, bummed out and downright angry.
As much fun as it is for the Thunder to win a game, it’s just as much not fun for the Thunder to lose a 1st round draft pick. The meaninglessly exciting comeback crushed the 50-50 coin flip chance that OKC would retain their own 2020 1st round draft pick, which now transfers to the 76ers.
A popular go-to retort to the Tank For The Pick Truthers has been, “The Thunder already have a million 1st round picks, who cares?”. But you can never have too many 1st round picks. That’s like Michael Jordan saying, “I already have five rings. Why do I need a sixth?”. It may seem some Thunder fans have gone full Scrooge McDuck with their greedy stockpiling of 1st round picks, but a rebuilding (ha!) team needs as many shots at young players as possible. Or you could package the two 1st round picks, projected to be #20 and #25, to move up a few spots to, say, #14 and get a player Presti rates much higher. Or it’s another asset Sam can throw into a potential bigger trade.
Turns out, Darius Bazley couldn’t care less about your 1st round picks. For the third straight game, Bubble Bazley scored over 20 points. He only had 5 points going into the final frame and the Thunder were down 104-82 with 10:21 left in the game.
So what did Bazley do in the 4th quarter?
He scored 16 points on 6-6 shooting, including 4-4 from 3. He grabbed 3 rebounds, dished 2 assists, had 1 clutch block and swiped 1 steal. Baze accounted for 21 points in a 22 point comeback. He outscored the Heat 16-15 by himself. And he drew a double team and kicked out to Mike Miller Muscala for the game winning assist. Hey, if you’re gonna lose a 1st round pick, this was a really fun way to do it.
I know the sample size is small, but Bazley looks like he may be the real deal. Yeah, Perry Jones scored 32 once, but he was never heard from again until Ice Cube gave him a job. This is three straight great games from Bazley, and 5 of 7 Bubble games he’s scored in double digits. Bol Bol was the talk of the basketball world for a week, and he hasn’t scored in double digits in a real game yet. He was a teenager until just a couple months ago. He hadn’t played organized basketball in over a year. Against the Heat, he spent time playing point guard, power forward and center. His potential is as enormous as his wingspan.
From thrilling rookie news to thwarted rookie knees, the other big storyline from the Heat game is Lu Dort’s health. Dort banged knees with Jae Crowder and went to the floor clutching his right knee as Thunder fans clutched their collective breaths. Thankfully, Lu walked off on his own without much of a limp. Billy Donovan said in his postgame presser the team will do some imaging on the knee, so we all await word on Dort’s availability for the playoffs.
Oh yeah, that’s right. One other fairly noteworthy bit of news came from this game.
The Main Event in the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs:
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Russell Westbrook.
- In their first ever playoffs without Russell Westbrook, OKC will play Russell Westbrook. The future Thunder 30 For 30 just keeps getting more and more ridiculous.
- Update: Russ is expected to miss the beginning of the 1st round due to a strained quad. Huge bummer both for Russ and for the high intrigue of the series. Thunder fans know Russ has that Wolverine healing ability, so let’s hope for a quick recovery.
- Even without Russ, the Rockets are no joke. James Harden, the refs, Robert Covington if he’s on, PJ Tucker if he’s on, Eric Gordon if he’s on, Uncle Jeff Green, Thabo oh wait he’s chilling at home, Clint Capela oh wait they have no center, oh man we better win this thing if Russ doesn’t play.
- Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson tried their best to help the Thunder keep their 1st round pick. Couple of nice guys!
- Thunder went on a 14-0 run and I became the real life version of the Alonzo Mourning and Larry David memes.
- Bazley hit 2 step back 3 pointers in this game. Between Darius and Shai, the Thunder have come a long way from a roster filled with guys who couldn’t hit normal 3 pointers.
- Andre Roberson knocked down a side step, in motion, no hesitation 3 pointer. He went 2-3 from 3 in the game and is now 3-8 on the season, good for 37.5%. Add that to his scrimmage stats and he’s been Bubble Brent Barry.
- Shai already had his best game in Orlando play by halftime. 18 points on 9 shots. 2-3 from 3. A couple patented SGA smooth finishes at the rim.
- Buy all the Darius Bazley stock you possibly can right now while you can still afford it.
- With a few minutes left in the game, I tweeted this: “If the Thunder really want to keep their 1st round pick, they need to bench Bazley cause he’s gonna win this game singlehandedly.” They did not. And he did.
- Up next: Thunder vs Clippers on Friday. I’m going full petty and hoping the Thunder win or the Rockets lose to the 76ers so that OKC locks up the 4 seed and has “home court” in the playoffs.