Oklahoma City is off to a 7-9 start that honestly feels surprising. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has willed the Thunder to wins, playing like a legitimate MVP candidate over the first 16 games of the season.
What’s even more interesting, though, is that Oklahoma City has dropped multiple winnable games already. Early on, the Thunder dropped three nail-biters, one to the Pistons and two to the Bucks. The Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo, though, and the Pistons are off to one of the worst starts in the NBA.
After responding with a string of impressive victories over eastern conferences foes, it seemed like Oklahoma City had some serious rhythm. Last week though, after Tre Mann and Darius Bazley were ruled out with injuries, the Thunder dropped two-out-of-three road games and seemed to run out of gas down the stretch.
It wasn’t like the Thunder’s loss to the short handed Bucks, though, as Jevon Carter wasn’t dropping 40-points on every defender in sight. Oklahoma City played terrific basketball and battled down to the final possessions against both the Celtics and the Grizzlies, two teams viewed near the top of each conference. In both games, though, Oklahoma City was missing a little extra spark.
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Mann has been the Thunder’s go-to scorer off the bench, averaging 11.1 points per night. Before going down with a back injury, Mann was coming off of a 21-point outing, followed up with 13 points the next night. While on the sidelines, OKC’s offense (especially the second unit) has looked stagnant and hesitant to shoot the ball.
Bazley on the other hand is growing into a reduced role this season and looking more and more comfortable with each game. With Aleksej Pokusevski hurt, and the Thunder already lacking bigs in general, Bazley’s stead play as of late would be a godsend for the Thunder right about now. He might never be the player he was drafted to be, but Bazley can still be a solid role player and was on his way to proving that before getting injured.
In each of the Thunder’s losses last week, it was evident both Bazley and Mann would’ve been helpful. The sooner Oklahoma City gets two impact players off the bench back in the lineup, the better.