The Oklahoma City Thunder (24-13) took care of business on Wednesday night in Los Angeles, rallying from a five-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat the LeBron-less Lakers (21-17) by a final score of 107-100. Paul George shook off early foul trouble to score a game-high 37 points on a night he was relentlessly booed by the Staples Center crowd. With Russell Westbrook struggling with his shot yet again (3-of-20 FG), George scored nine points in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder to victory after trailing through three quarters.
The atmosphere in the arena seemed hostile from the start, as George was booed by his hometown crowd during player introductions — and then every time he touched the basketball henceforth. He came out flat, shooting just 2-of-6 before picking up his third foul at the 3:12 mark of first quarter. Steven Adams scored seven early points but neither team shot better than 36 percent in the first 12 minutes. Westbrook was 0-for-6 and the game was tied 25-25 after one.
Kentavius Caldwell-Pope caught the holy ghost in the second quarter — going 3-for-3 from long range to push the Lakers to a three-point lead when George checked back in at the 8:20 mark. Appearing angry, he went to work — scoring 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the second to spark the OKC offense. His fading mid-range jumper over Lance Stephenson put the Thunder up 59-57 at the halftime break. George was also fouled on the play but missed the ensuing free throw.
The third quarter was a disaster for the Thunder, as Westbrook’s shooting struggles took center stage. The former MVP suffered yet another 0-of-6 quarter, missing open threes and even air-balled an attempt from mid-range. George scored 11 of the Thunder’s 19 in the third, but the team shot just 5-of-23 (21.7 percent) as a whole. The Lakers outscored OKC 25-19 in the third quarter to take an 82-78 lead into the fourth and final frame.
Very much like last week in Phoenix, the Thunder bench provided the spark that lit the fuse on a monster fourth quarter. Rolling with a lineup of Dennis Schroder, Hamidou Diallo, Abdel Nader, Patrick Patterson, and Nerlens Noel, the Thunder fell into a five-point hole before rattling off an 11-0 run over the next five minutes of basketball. Behind a couple big baskets from Nader and stifling defense from Noel, Westbrook re-entered the game with a 91-85 lead with 6:31 to go.
Though the Lakers had trimmed their deficit to three when George checked back in at the 5:13 mark, the hometown hero-turned-foe was happy to take it from there. PG13 shot 3-of-4 for nine points over the remaining minutes of basketball — driving the dagger by completing a backdoor alley-oop from Westbrook to put OKC up 103-92 with 2:11 remaining. Through constant booing and chants of “We Don’t Need You”, the MVP candidate wrapped up his night with 37 points, four rebounds, and four steals in the 107-100 victory.
Outside of George, five Thunder players scored in double-figures — including Westbrook (14), Adams (14), Jerami Grant (13), Schroder (10), and Nader (10). Despite going 7-of-31 (22.6 percent) from long range and 20-of-31 (64.5 percent) from the free throw line, OKC committed just 11 turnovers and won 64-54 on the glass in the winning effort. Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers with 25 points on 5-of-11 shooting from deep. Brandon Ingram (15-11-5) and JaVale McGee (15-8, 4 blks) were solid for L.A., as well.
The Thunder return to action on Friday night in Portland, taking on the Trail Blazers (22-16) at 9:30 PM CST on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Paul George: 37 pts, 4 reb, 4 stl, 15/29 FG, 2/11 3P, +4
No Place Like Home. George was phenomenal after a foul-plagued first quarter — scoring 37 points despite a 2-of-11 clip from long range. He seemed a bit rattled to start — I don’t think anyone expected that sort of response from the L.A faithful — but he settled in and played angry to close it out. He heard chants of “We Don’t Need You” but that’s certainly not the case for this Thunder team.
The Brodie. Westbrook recorded his 11th triple-double of the season in the victory, posting 14 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and two blocks. However, he shot just 3-of-20 from the field and went 1-of-7 from long range. He did impact the game in a lot of ways — it was an emotional game and his fingerprints are on the victory. However, it’s the second time in three games that he’s shot 18 percent or worse from the field. It’s concerning to most — but I don’t think he’s too worried.
Big Steve. Adams finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks — wrapping up his night as a +6 in 36 minutes of action. Though we’ve seen bigger nights from a scoring perspective, he was everywhere in this one. His knack for making plays at precisely the right moment oftentimes keeps this Thunder team from veering too far off track.
The Replacements. One more time for the Schroder-Diallo-Patterson-Noel lineup. Outscored the Lakers 11-3 to open the fourth quarter — putting the Thunder in front for good.
Ferg’s No Good, Very Bad Day. Terrance Ferguson had a terrible fourth quarter from a physical harm perspective, as he had two scary incidents down the stretch. First, he was upended while defending a Josh Hart layup attempt — falling flat on his face from about 27 feet (estimation) in the air. Though he stayed in the game, he later took a Flagrant 1 to the face from Tyson Chandler, resulting in his exit for good.
Standings. The Thunder remain third in the Western Conference at 24-13, trailing second place Golden State by a half game and the first place Nuggets by a full game.