By Michael Kinney
Paul George has had some bad shooting nights since joining. He had nights when it appeared there was no way he could have been an all-star or former Olympian and sometimes got lost in the shuffle.
That was not the case Friday night when Oklahoma City hosted the L.A. Clippers. George poured in a season-high 42 points to go along with 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
It was the type of game George needed to have to have as the Thunder (5-7) ended a four-game losing streak with a 120-111 victory over the Clippers.
“Just came out aggressive every time I caught the ball,” George said. “I’ve got to be that just to take pressure off everybody. Kind of get some rhythm for myself just to get some offensive flow.”
In his previous 11 games, George was averaging 19 points a contest and his season high was 28. But George’s output was not unexpected from his teammates.
“I’m used to that,” Anthony said of George. “i think everybody will start getting used to that. He was in attack mode tonight from the beginning. Anytime he can play down hill the way he was tonight, in attack mode, that gives us a different dynamic as a team. We played off of that tonight. He led us tonight.””
Russell Westbrook added 22 points on 8 of 16 shooting. He also posted eight assists and three steals.
Anthony chipped in 14 points and six rebounds. Alex Abrines came off the bench to score 14 points. That included going 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
Lou Williams paced the Clippers (5-6) with 35 points. Blake Griffin and Austin Rivers each scored 17 points in the defeat.
I really like the way we competed being this shorthanded,” Griffin said. “All you can ask for is guys to come out and compete.”
The Clippers were without the services of Patrick Beverley and Darilo Gallinari due to injuries. Despite that, Oklahoma City was unable to take advantage of shorthanded Clips until they stretched an eight point halftime lead to 20 midway through the third quarter.
They key may have been coach Billy Donovan calling a timeout after the first defensive possession of the quarter when Oklahoma City gave up an easy basket. During the timeout, Donovan got onto his team and the Thunder seemed to respond.
Playing with more energy than in the first half, it looked like Oklahoma City was set to run the depleted L.A. squad off the court.
However, led by Williams and Griffin, the Clippers cut the 20 point deficit down to 8 heading into the fourth quarter.
With 5:36 minutes left in the game, Oklahoma City’s lead had evaporated when Rivers tied the game at 105-105 with a corner three.
With just over four minutes left in the game, George put the Thunder up by four with a mid-range jumper. He then added a pair of free throws and Oklahoma City led 113-107.
Williams drained a jumper to cut the deficit to four. But Andre Robertson put back a missed Westbrook layup to push the advantage back to six.
The Clippers came up empty on their next possession. Thunder center Dakari Johnson made L.A, pay by confidently knocking down a 20-foot jumper 2:11 left in the game. Johnson got his first NBA start due to an injury to Steven Adams.
“I learned right when I got to the arena,” Johnson said. “Coach told me to just be myself, help on the rebounds. I felt good. I work on the jump shot every day during practice, after practice.”
Oklahoma City put the game away when Westbrook threw a half-court pass to Jerami Grant, who was all alone on the baseline. He threw down a two-hand dunk that put The Thunder up by 10 and sent the fans scurrying for the exits.
‘It always feels good to get a win,” Westbrook said. “We did all the right things for 48 minutes. They made a run, we stepped up and did a good job.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer for Eyeamtruth.com