Paul George stole the show from the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook drama with a 38-point explosion. Recently, games like this has become a regularity for George.
Going into the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s game against the Golden State Warriors, everyone thought it would be another episode in the real-life drama between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but their interactions were relatively quiet. Instead, it was a physical game that ended with Paul George and Westbrook scoring 72 points combined.
OKC won the game, 125-105.
Paul George stepped up after Carmelo Anthony sprained his right ankle. After dropping 20 points in the last game against the Warriors with four made 3-pointers, George followed that up with a even better game, scoring 38 points.
George has stepped up big in big games just like these. According to ESPN‘s Royce Young, George has averaged 30.2 points per game, shot 53.7 percent from the field and shot 53 percent from 3 in five games against the Warriors, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Thunder have won all five games.
George was 11-for-23 from the field (47.8 percent) and 6-for-11 from downtown (54.5 percent) in Tuesday’s game. Meanwhile, Westbrook had 34 points, with 21 of those 34 coming in a dominant first quarter that set the tone. He was 13-for-26 from the field (50 percent).
Paul George has really had a hot hand in the past couple of games and this game he just exploded. George hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer and he added the exclamation point to the win after he dunked on Zaza Pachulia with 4:40 left in the third.
After the dunk the score was 91-71 and the game stayed out of reach after that.
In the last four games, George has averaged 30.5 points and 3.0 steals. He has been displaying his two-way game to its fullest capabilities in these past couple games.
Also his marksmanship has been displayed. Before he shot close to 50 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from 3 in this game, he shot a ridiculous 73 percent from the field on 26 shots (!!) in the game against the Denver Nuggets while dropping 43 points.
This four-game stretch for George has showed some of the reasons why the Thunder passed on the Paul George-for-Blake Griffin swap. George’s efficiency and ability to play both sides of the ball are skills that cannot be taken lightly.
Paul George spoke after the game about how he dominated on the court on Tuesday, per NBA.com:
“I’m a competitor. I compete. That’s just me being fearless and taking the challenge to try to do whatever it is to help my team,” George said. “We had to match the physicality as well as their pace. That was the key tonight.”
Also, with the continuity that the Thunder are gaining now with the OK3, it makes sense that the Thunder would keep this team together for a least a whole year and see how far it can go in the playoffs.
The fact that they are competing with the best in the league should have OKC looking forward to a deep playoff run. The Thunder are now 7-2 against the top three teams in each conference.
The next step for the Thunder is winning games against teams that they are supposed to beat.
The Thunder lost four games that they, on paper, should have won against the John Wall-less Washington Wizards, the Denver Nuggets (who are right behind them), New Orleans Pelicans (who just lost superstar center DeMarcus Cousins) and the Los Angeles Lakers (who are currently not in the playoffs).
The Thunder will have be able to play through Paul George like they do during those big games that they dominate and that will take them into the next tier they are hoping to reach.
With Paul George playing at the level that he did in Indiana now, the OKC Thunder will have a shot to go far in the Western Conference Playoffs if they can center their offense around him and Westbrook.