Thunder keep Wizards winless in bubble
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida — Rookie Darius Bazley scored a career-high 23 points off the bench, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat Washington 121-103 on Sunday to keep the Wizards the only winless team inside the NBA bubble.
Bazley was 5 of 8 from 3-point range. Danilo Gallinari scored 20 points, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 18 as Oklahoma City led from the opening bucket and improved to 3-2 in the seeding games.
“Darius got good shots and the ball went in,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
Mike Muscala also scored 18 points. Chris Paul had 13 points and nine assists, and Hamidou Diallo finished with 13 points for the Thunder.
The Wizards, who came into this game already eliminated from playoff contention, dropped to 0-6 since the NBA restarted the season. Coach Scott Brooks said he thought the Wizards took a step back over the first 10 minutes before competing the rest of the game.
“The name of the game is to win,” Brooks said. “We’re all in it to win. We haven’t won a game, but we’re still going to teach and we’re still going to grow and we’re still going to work on the correct habits. That’s what we’re all here to do.”
The Thunder certainly didn’t take the Wizards lightly.
“It’s almost scarier to play a team who has nothing to lose,” Bazley said. “And on our end, we just wanted to make sure we were staying disciplined and just to keep building good habits and create an identity for ourselves.”
Jerome Robinson led Washington with 19 points off the bench. Isaac Bonga scored 14 points, Troy Brown Jr. and Moritz Wagner each had 12, Riu Hachimura added 11 and Ish Smith 10.
The Thunder opened with Muscala hitting back-to-back 3s as part of a quick 10-0 lead as the Wizards missed their first seven shots. Oklahoma City led 32-23 after the first quarter and 64-48 at halftime.
Oklahoma City just kept pushing the lead to as much as 22 when Muscala hit a 3-pointer with 8:15 left for a 76-54 lead. The Wizards pulled within 83-70 on Robinson’s 3-pointer with 2:16 remaining, but the Thunder led 90-75 at the end of the third.
Wizards: G Shabazz Napier sat out with a sprained right ankle. … Improving the 3-point shot has been a focus of the Wizards even with the chance at a play-in game gone, and the Wizards got plenty of shots that didn’t go down. They shot 26% (9 of 36) beyond the arc. … Outscored the Thunder 48-42 in the paint.
Thunder: Matched a season high with 18 made 3-pointers, shooting 18-of-39 for 46.2%. They also made 18 3s against Miami on Jan. 17. … Played without C Steven Adams due to a bruised lower leg and Nerlens Noel. Muscala played after missing the last two games in the concussion protocol. … Snapped a two-game skid to the Wizards.
This game tipped off at 12:30 p.m. EDT. Combined with playing a team that has yet to win inside the bubble could have been an issue for the Thunder. Muscala said they understand they have to create their own energy in these games even with the virtual fans and team colors on the screens.
“At the end of the day, it’s a stark contrast from a typical game in the NBA,” Muscala said. “So it’s a challenge that I think we’re enjoying something new and different. But we’ve got to approach every game regardless of the team the same way and focus on what we have to do and bring our own energy.”
Smith said the Wizards are getting valuable lessons inside the bubble despite the losses. Why? The high level of the competition compared to the regular season, when teams might have injuries or other issues.
“This is a good thing for all of us to show us the level that you have to play at, the physicality you got to play with, the level you have to play at to be, not just to make it to the playoffs but to be a champion,” Smith said.
Wizards: Play Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
Thunder: Play the Phoenix Suns on Monday.