The Oklahoma City Thunder (16-7) escaped with a 114-112 victory over the Brooklyn Nets (8-18) on Wednesday night at the Barclays Center. The Thunder found themselves trailing by 18 after three quarters, but Paul George erupted for 25 fourth quarter points — including the game-winning three with 3.1 seconds remaining. In total, George recorded 47 points (15-of-27 FG, 6-of-13 3P, 11-of-14 FT), 15 rebounds, and 4 assists. Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double with 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 17 assists. The triple-double is the 108th of his career, passing Jason Kidd for third-most all-time.
Despite starting the game with three-pointers from Terrance Ferguson and George on the Thunder’s first two possessions, the offense was far from humming in the opening frame. The defense, however, was playing at its usual league-leading level out of the gate. Even with the strong Thunder defense, the Nets took an early 26-24 lead after one.
While the OKC offense was abysmal in the first, the Thunder essentially said “Hold my beer” in the second. Brooklyn opened the quarter on a 15-2 run, providing the home team with a double-digit lead. The Thunder shot a putrid 32.1 percent from the field in the quarter, while the Nets exploded for 36 points on 48 percent shooting. The Thunder struggles were exemplified by Westbrook and George combining to shoot 37.5 percent from the field in the opening half, as the Thunder trailed 62-46 at the break.
Coming in as arguably the best third quarter team in the NBA, the Thunder were unable to string together the necessary stops to get back in the game. Just as the Thunder would score on consecutive possessions, Allen Crabbe would come down and hit a potential four-point play. The Nets’ lead grew to 93-75 heading into the final quarter and the game looked out of reach for OKC.
Thunder fans have grown accustomed to the occasional clunker against lottery teams over the years, despite a perfect 12-0 record against teams with losing records so far this season. The Thunder were well on their way to recording their first “bad loss” of the season — and then Fourth Quarter P happened.
With the Thunder trailing by 18 points to start the final quarter, George caught fire — scoring from distance, in transition, and by attacking the lane in the half-court. He scored 25 points (a Thunder record for any quarter) on 9-of-12 shooting in the final 12 minutes. However, he saved his biggest play for last.
Trailing 111-112 with 8 seconds remaining, the Thunder used their final timeout in hopes of stealing the improbable victory. Westbrook received the in-bounds pass, with George immediately providing the slip-screen. Westbrook then forced the double team and kicked the ball to George on the perimeter. George pump faked and calmly let a wide-open three fly, tickling the twine with 3.1 seconds remaining.
The Thunder defense stood firm on the Nets’ final possession, thanks to a Westbrook deflection that landed out of bounds with 0.1 seconds remaining — sealing the largest comeback (23 points) in Thunder history.
Paul George: 47 pts, 15 reb, 15/27 FG, 6/13 3P, +12
Russell Westbrook: 21 pts, 15 reb, 17 ast, 9/23 FG, 2/9 3P, +10
Fourth Quarter P: George’s 25 fourth quarter points are a Thunder franchise record for points in any quarter, and the Thunder needed every single one of them to lead this historic comeback. George was 9-of-12 from the field in the final 12 minutes, including 3-of-4 from long range. He was just 6-of-15 from the floor before taking over and displaying perhaps his finest stretch of basketball in a Thunder uniform. Unbelievable effort from PG13 late in this one.
Moving up the list, Mr. Triple Double: Westbrook recorded his 108th career triple-double tonight, moving him into sole possession of third place on the NBA’s all-time triple-double list –breaking the tie with Jason Kidd. The Brodie recorded 21 points, 15 rebounds, and 17 assists, while jacking up some irresponsible shots throughout — but he did take just two field goals in the fourth quarter. Westbrook went 2-of-9 from three-point range tonight, which has been recipe for disaster for the Thunder over the years. Less is more, Russ, less is more.
Three-Point Shooting: The Thunder’s ability at defending the three didn’t live up to its billing tonight, as the Nets converted 15-of-36 three-point attempts (41.7 percent). The Thunder were lucky to hit 13-of-38 from distance, thanks in large part to George going 6-of-13 from downtown. For those keeping score at home, the Thunder shot 7-of-25 (28 percent) from three by everyone else who didn’t drop 47 tonight in Barclays.
No Answers for Allen Crabbe: Crabbe led the way for the Nets, recording 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from distance. Crabbe was also able to convert on two separate potential four-point plays. The Nets found him early and often, as Crabbe was open throughout.
Free-Throw Shooting: There are no two ways around it, the Thunder often find themselves struggling from the charity stripe. Tonight was no different. The Thunder shot 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) from the free-throw line against the Nets. Steven Adams was driving the struggle bus tonight, shooting 1-of-6 from the line.
Welcome back, Hamidou: After being carried off the court on a stretcher only a few weeks ago, Hamidou Diallo returned to action tonight in his hometown of New York City. Diallo didn’t contribute much in his five minutes of action, but having him back in such a short amount of time means the world for the Thunder.
The Celebration: A little mosh pit action after Paul George canned the three and the Thunder held on for the win.
And the televised celebratory shower:
Good win. Back in action on Friday night in Chicago.