'He’s rolling with the punches': Darius Bazley shines in relief role as Thunder tops Nuggets for third-straight win

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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander tracked down his 3-point miss, blew past Nikola Jokic and finished with a dunk.

Luguentz Dort had a similar effort in the second half. Dort missed a 3-pointer, fought for his miss, passed to Josh Giddey, and then Dort sprinted to the opposite corner where Giddey found Dort for a 3-pointer.

The Thunder was relentless against the step-too-slow Nuggets.

Oklahoma City built its biggest lead of the season (23 points), and rode that for a 108-94 win against Denver on Wednesday night at Paycom Center.

A Nuggets bench mob rallied in the fourth quarter, cutting the Thunder’s lead to single digits with four minutes left.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone never reinserted his starters in the fourth quarter. Jokic, the reigning MVP, didn’t even take his warmups off.

Malone said after the game that he didn’t think his starters deserved the chance to go back in.

Those Thunder second-chance points might have played a part.

Here are four more takeaways from the game:

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Oklahoma City Thunder guard Tre Mann (23) goes past Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (7) for a basket during Wednesday night's game at Paycom Center. OKC won the game 108-94.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Tre Mann (23) goes past Denver Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (7) for a basket during Wednesday night's game at Paycom Center. OKC won the game 108-94.

SGA triple-double

Gilgeous-Alexander sealed his second-career triple-double with a fourth-quarter rebound.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished with 27 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.

Gilgeous-Alexander gashed the Nuggets, particularly in the first half, when SGA shot 9-of-14.

He was 1-of-10 in the second half, and finished 0-of-7 from 3-point range, but he got to the free throw line and facilitated for his teammates.

'Let’s hang onto it': Former Thunder analyst Grant Long relives previous worst loss in NBA history

'You can’t make decisions in fear': How the Thunder came to decision to bench Darius Bazley

Bazley making most of bench role

It’s safe to say the Darius Bazley bench experiment is going well.

Bazley was terrific in his 28 minutes Wednesday night. He had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Bazley spoke to the media before the game, making his first public comments since being benched three games ago. Before that, he had started 82 consecutive games.

Bazley took the high road, repeating some of the same lines Daigneault said when explaining the decision.

“We were just trying to come up with something to best help the team and myself,” Bazley said. “I know Coach Mark has both my team and my best interests at heart.”

Bazley paused for almost 20 seconds when asked how coming off the bench could help him personally.

“Just bringing energy on both ends of the floor,” Bazley finally said. “Running the floor, running the lanes offensively. And defensively having effort. Not only can that help me, but it helps the team.”

It’s only been three games, but Daigneault said he’s liked what he’s seen from Bazley.

“I’m definitely seeing what I was hoping to see … he is embracing the circumstances, he’s rolling with the punches and kind of flowing with the decision,” Daigneault said. “His energy has been solid and consistent in that role.”

Tramel's ScissorTales: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander becoming a clutch king for the Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) goes to the basket during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. The Thunder won 108-94.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Darius Bazley (7) goes to the basket during an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Denver Nuggets at Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021. The Thunder won 108-94.

'Let’s hang onto it': Former Thunder analyst Grant Long relives previous worst loss in NBA history

Attack mode

The Thunder outscored the Nuggets 62-36 in the paint.

Gilgeous-Alexander led the aggressive downhill attack, and his teammates followed suit.

Equally important, the Thunder kept the Nuggets out of the paint.

Jokic had one of his quietest games of the season with 13 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting.

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Scheduling quirk

Divisions don’t mean all that much in the NBA, but with the Nuggets in town Wednesday night, it brought up a strange scheduling quirk.

Coming into Wednesday night, the Thunder had played a league-low two games against Northwest divisional foes. Both of those were against the Jazz.

The Nuggets game was just the third divisional game of the season for OKC.

Looking across the NBA, the Mavericks have played nine divisional games. The Celtics, Raptors and Kings have played eight. A handful of teams have played seven.

Then there’s the Thunder, who still haven’t played divisional rivals Portland and Minnesota.

What’s it all mean? Not much, other than a lot of Trail Blazers, Timberwolves, Nuggets and Jazz games still to play.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Thunder vs. Nuggets: Darius Bazley shines in relief role for OKC

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