Nick Gallo (okcthunder.com) recaps last night’s historic comeback in Brooklyn: “On the final Thunder possession Dennis Schröder inbounded the ball to Russell Westbrook on the left wing, as George timed his cut perfectly right in front of the face of Westbrook’s defender. Both Nets players in the mix froze in place, just as the whole building did when the already flaming hot George caught the ball on the right wing. After the aforementioned pump game and hesitation dribble, the perennial All-Star’s three and final bucket gave him 47 points for the night, one shy of a career-high, and 25 points in the fourth quarter alone on 9-of-12 shooting, 4-of-6 from three, 3-of-5 FTs in the fourth quarter shooting from the field and 4-of-6 marksmanship from behind the arc to complete a 47-point effort overall. ”
Brett Dawson (Athletic) on Paul George, his game-winner, and a fourth quarter that defines the Thunder: “They mobbed Paul George when it was over, his Thunder teammates surrounding him in a rowdy scrum on the court at Barclays Center. Russell Westbrook, George’s point guard and friend, doused him with all a bottle of water had to offer. Maybe it took that to cool him off. George had done more than score 47 points Wednesday night, had done more than pull the Thunder from the brink of a blowout to a 114-112 win. He’d done more than bury a game-winning 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds to play. He’d exorcized a demon of sorts. In what’s been a remarkable career, George entered Wednesday night never having made a game-winning basket. He’d been 0 for 14 in his career on go-ahead attempts in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime, according to ESPN Stats and Info. When it finally happened, nobody much seemed to notice that it hadn’t.”
This is incredible:
Michael Shapiro (SI) on Paul George proving his worth as Russell Westbrook’s co-star: “George’s full arsenal was on display in Brooklyn, highlighted by a dominant 25-point fourth quarter. He bullied Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe on drives to the tin. He hit four threes in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 3.1 seconds remaining. George didn’t defer to Westbrook or cede the hot hand. It was his quarter. Oklahoma City is second in the Western Conference after Wednesday’s win and projects to reach the postseason despite an ultra-competitive West. George and Westbrook are one of the best one-two punches in the conference, and the core surrounding them is steadier than in past years. If George can assert himself in the postseason like he did on Wednesday night, Oklahoma City will be one of the most dangerous outs in the Western Conference playoffs.”
Highlights from the Paul George takeover:
Berry Tramel (Oklahoman) on the biggest comeback in Thunder history: “Three times in the last 25 games – 23 games this season, then the final two games of the Jazz playoff series last April – the Thunder has rallied to win after trailing by at least 19 points. That’s not interesting. That’s not compelling. That’s amazing. Who gets the credit? Well, everybody. Westbrook and George, the leaders, of course, for setting a never-say-die tone. But the stoic cornerstones, Adams and Grant, too. And don’t forget Donovan. That’s wild and that’s exemplary.”
Tyler Conway (B/R) on Westbrook’s latest piece of triple-double history: “Russell Westbrook now stands alone in third place on the NBA’s all-time triple-double list. The Oklahoma City Thunder guard posted a triple-double in Wednesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, passing Jason Kidd with 108 career triple-doubles. Westbrook tied Kidd in a Nov. 28 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Oscar Robertson owns the all-time record with 181 career triple-doubles. Magic Johnson is 30 ahead of Westbrook with 138.”
Chris Mannix (SI) on the unseen side of Russell Westbrook the teammate: “He was shaped by a lot of things that happened early in his career,” former Thunder forward Nick Collison told The Crossover. “Here was a guy, 22, 23 in playoff games, and all the sports shows crushed him at different times. I think that really molded him to understand that what the media says doesn’t affect him either way. Think about it—how many young players who get to the conference finals [in 2011] have that kind of heat on them?” Westbrook’s reputation took a hit again in 2016, when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City. How could Durant leave a rising team on the brink of a championship? Had to be Westbrook, a high usage rate, analytics nightmare. Thus, the “Is Russell Westbrook a good teammate?” narrative was born. “That’s crazy,” Collison said. “Him coming to play and compete every night is almost underrated. The consistency of him, the durability, the production—being there night after night and competing, as a teammate, there is really nothing more than you want. He’s gotten so much better from a leadership level, how he talks to teammates … it’s like school, where you have the cool guys everyone gravitates towards. He’s always been one of those guys.”
Teammates Celebrating: 16-7 and second in the Western Conference.
Around the League: Is Kawhi Leonard the MVP favorite?…. KD wants to own an NBA team in Seattle…. Carmelo Anthony is the last great American ballhog…. Recapping last night’s NBA action…. How tragedy nearly convinced Joel Embiid to quit the NBA…. KD said the environment around LeBron James is “toxic”…. LeBron responds to chatter about his game and workload.