Big win in Brooklyn
The Thunder came back from a 23-point deficit to beat the Nets, 114-112.
BROOKLYN — With Paul George and Russell Westbrook at the center, a mob of Thunder blue formed underneath the basket. Inside a circle of teammates, George and Westbrook bounced back and forth with the biggest smiles on their faces.
It was a celebration and exhale in an unforgettable 114-112 win against the Nets, the biggest regularseason rally in Thunder history.
“It’s just special,” said George, who scored a game-high 47 points, none more important than his 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left off Westbrook’s heady pass.
“All year it’s been special with this group. We have fun and it showed in the celebration tonight.”
The 3-pointer was the final of 25 fourth-quarter points for George, and the first game-winning shot of his Thunder tenure.
Westbrook darted toward the sideline for an inbounds pass with 8.1 seconds left. He could have dribbled and shot, but he recognized the defense and flipped back to George’s scorching hot hand.
It saved an uncharacteristically lost defensive performance from the Thunder, who showed shades of its early season
defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers – flat after a night in a big city.
“It was incredible,” said an awed Dennis Schroder. “I think our effort on the defensive end stopping the ball was just great.”
Schroder must have been referring to only the final 7 ½ minutes of the fourth quarter. For much of Wednesday’s game at the Barclays Center, the Thunder’s defense was a latereacting, scrambled mess that gave up 15 3-pointers.
To the Thunder’s credit, even when it trailed by as many as 23 points, it didn’t quit.
“They kind of corrected and did some things a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said.
Westbrook, who finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds
and 17 assists, was at the head of that reversal. In the fourth-quarter flurry, he hustled for offensive rebounds. He skied for defensive rebounds in the last minutes, never getting a stat but his effort enough to help George get the rebound that allowed Donovan to call timeout to set up the final shot.
“Once you see a guy make a few in a row, get fouled, gain some confidence, my job is to find him,” Westbrook said.”
Executing game-winning shots hasn’t been George’s strong suit in his nine-year career.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, before Wednesday, George was 0-of-14 in his career on go-ahead field goals in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.
George’s failures in those positions have drawn criticism and barbs across the Internet. Those were nonexistent on Wednesday.
By the time George ignited in the fourth quarter, the Barclays Center crowd was in hysterics. It didn’t even care about the final score.
As George was pinging around like a pinball in the Thunder post-game huddle, he didn’t care about anything else but the win. He fell one point short of a career high, but that didn’t matter in extending the Thunder’s winning streak to four.
“I don’t care about what the stats (are),” George said when asked about his reputation for missing potential game-winning shots. “Shots go in, shots don’t. I don’t play for stats. That’s not how I play the game.
“Whatever the joke or meme, I’m doing what I love to do and I’m doing it at the highest level. I can’t say that for everybody that’s commenting or making a meme. Those guys aren’t happy with who they are. I’m happy with what I am, who I am as a person. I play this game because I love it.”
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George gestures to the crowd after scoring the game-winning basket in the Thunder’s 114-112 victory over Brooklyn.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder tries to keep the ball in bounds during Wednesday night’s game at Brooklyn.