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Thunder rookie Darius Bazley returns to native Ohio, steps up in 121-106 win vs. Cavaliers

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Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) defends Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman during OKC's 121-106 win Saturday in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]
Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) defends Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman during OKC's 121-106 win Saturday in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]

Darius Bazley shuffled alongside Kevin Love, the Thunder rookie tracking the Cavaliers veteran. As Love leaped toward the rim, Bazley left the floor and got a hand on the ball, knocking it against the backboard.

In the Thunder’s 121-106 win over the Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Saturday, Bazley spent a chunk of the game matched up on Cleveland’s star. It was the 19-year-old rookie’s first NBA appearance in his home state, nearly two years removed from starring at Princeton High School in Cincinnati about a 3½-hour drive away southwest from Cleveland.

Even against much better competition, Bazley brought back to Ohio the same versatile skillset that had made him an elite prospect in high school.

Bazley’s second-quarter block on Love had offensive implications as well. It sent Chris Paul dashing the other way with the ball. The veteran point guard found Dennis Schroder in transition, and Schroder drained a 3-pointer. The Thunder took a 46-37 lead with eight minutes left in the first half.

“It’s not really about necessarily who we’re playing against,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said before the game. “It’s about what kind of team do we want to be.”

That’s a line coaches generally use when they’re about to face a bad team. And the Cavaliers (10-25) are sputtering. Love’s frustration boiled over into an outburst directed toward Cleveland general manager Koby Altman after morning shootaround, The Athletic reported Saturday.

But the Thunder (20-15) has played down to its competition before. Its only loss in the past 10 games came against the 14-22 Grizzlies.

That made establishing balanced scoring early, with contributions from young players like Bazley, all the more important for OKC on Saturday.

Six Thunder players scored in double digits. Schroder led the way with 22 points off the bench. The OKC bench outscored the Cleveland bench 52-19, despite Thunder center Nerlens Noel leaving the game in the third quarter with a left ankle sprain.

"We're together,” Schroder told Fox Sports Oklahoma. “Doing everything as a team. I think on the defensive end we just compete, try to get stops. And when we get the rebound, just run. Share the ball, get the best shot possible.”

Bazley added nine points, an assist, a steal and a block. For a team that has been struggling to limit its opponents’ offensive rebounds in recent games, Bazley grabbed seven rebounds. He led Thunder reserves in that category.

Bazley’s standout second quarter began with a 3-pointer. The Cavaliers left Bazley open as they began to collapse around Chris Paul while the veteran Thunder guard dribbled along the baseline. Paul threw the ball out to wide open Bazley, who drained a smooth long-range jumper.

But the Thunder expanded its lead even more quickly with Bazley making plays on both ends of the floor.

After blocking Love to set the Thunder up for three fast-break points, Bazley disrupted another shot by Love in the next possession. Then he got in on the fast-break action. He caught a pass from Steven Adams and scored a mid-range jumper. The Thunder took a 48-37 lead to cap a 7-0 run.

OKC led by double digits for much of the remainder of the game en route to a season-high fifth consecutive win.

Related Photos
<strong>Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots against Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) in the first half Saturday. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</strong>

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots against Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) in the first half Saturday. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-52af2c82621b6f6a8377109c68a8946e.jpg" alt="Photo - Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots against Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) in the first half Saturday. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak] " title=" Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots against Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) in the first half Saturday. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak] "><figcaption> Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) shoots against Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) in the first half Saturday. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-862a6ea4a0e580be704f1a99886f19ec.jpg" alt="Photo - Thunder forward Mike Muscala (33) and guard Dennis Schroder (17) celebrate during the fourth quarter of their 121-106 win Saturday at Cleveland. [David Richard/USA TODAY Sports] " title=" Thunder forward Mike Muscala (33) and guard Dennis Schroder (17) celebrate during the fourth quarter of their 121-106 win Saturday at Cleveland. [David Richard/USA TODAY Sports] "><figcaption> Thunder forward Mike Muscala (33) and guard Dennis Schroder (17) celebrate during the fourth quarter of their 121-106 win Saturday at Cleveland. [David Richard/USA TODAY Sports] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e141e9f047d445a0ece9e6776f3767bd.jpg" alt="Photo - Cleveland Cavaliers' Cedi Osman (16) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Darius Bazley (7) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]" title="Cleveland Cavaliers' Cedi Osman (16) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Darius Bazley (7) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]"><figcaption>Cleveland Cavaliers' Cedi Osman (16) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Darius Bazley (7) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d7b79734a35d82535b40d3202895d465.jpg" alt="Photo - Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein yells instructions to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]" title="Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein yells instructions to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]"><figcaption>Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein yells instructions to players in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d6e1be21504e4313e0c690c324d4e517.jpg" alt="Photo - Cleveland Cavaliers' Matthew Dellavedova (18) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]" title="Cleveland Cavaliers' Matthew Dellavedova (18) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]"><figcaption>Cleveland Cavaliers' Matthew Dellavedova (18) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-12aa95c0d190d40411f913732e035643.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Danilo Gallinari (8) drives past Cleveland Cavaliers' Alfonzo McKinnie (28) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. Oklahoma won 121-106. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Danilo Gallinari (8) drives past Cleveland Cavaliers' Alfonzo McKinnie (28) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. Oklahoma won 121-106. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Danilo Gallinari (8) drives past Cleveland Cavaliers' Alfonzo McKinnie (28) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. Oklahoma won 121-106. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9ab7530501630e4f748e127f8f7a21d3.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder (17) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' John Henson (31) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. Oklahoma won 121-106. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]" title="Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder (17) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' John Henson (31) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. Oklahoma won 121-106. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder's Dennis Schroder (17) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers' John Henson (31) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. Oklahoma won 121-106. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1d9d1bef7cdeff93f71cda1972ba7ec4.jpg" alt="Photo - Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton (2) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Terrance Ferguson (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]" title="Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton (2) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Terrance Ferguson (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]"><figcaption>Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton (2) drives past Oklahoma City Thunder's Terrance Ferguson (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-82a8864ebc73c1237168fd041e9dd89d.jpg" alt="Photo - Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton (2) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Terrance Ferguson (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]" title="Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton (2) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Terrance Ferguson (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]"><figcaption>Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton (2) drives to the basket against Oklahoma City Thunder's Terrance Ferguson (23) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020, in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e38e8c727c455ac6007fb061469cf1b5.jpg" alt="Photo - Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) defends Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman during OKC's 121-106 win Saturday in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak] " title=" Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) defends Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman during OKC's 121-106 win Saturday in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak] "><figcaption> Thunder rookie Darius Bazley (7) defends Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman during OKC's 121-106 win Saturday in Cleveland. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak] </figcaption></figure>
Maddie Lee

Maddie Lee followed an NBA team from Seattle to Oklahoma City, she just took a 10-year detour in between. Lee joined the Oklahoman in October 2018 as a Thunder beat writer, fresh off a stint in Oxford, Miss., where she covered Ole Miss for the... Read more ›

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