OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Last postseason, it was “Playoff P” who blitzed the Utah Jazz (13-15) in Game 1. Sadly the rest of of playoffs, “Playoff P” was absent for Oklahoma City (17-8).
Tonight saw the glorious return of Paul George’s superb play against the Jazz.
George found himself in a rhythm that kept all hopes of a Utah win at bay. 31 points on 8-of-1o shooting. After making his first five three pointers, George didn’t his first and only three pointer until 1:07 left in the third quarter.
Speaking of that quarter, George dropped 17 of his 31 points in the third. That is where Oklahoma City ultimately put the game away after outscoring the Jazz 42-29.
“It’s about our team, on both ends of the floor,” Billy Donovan said after the game. “Paul was able to get hot from three tonight. But overall as a team we played well.”
It has been performances like this that has led to a small, but growing movement of George for MVP. Even the Thunder crowd started chanting “M-V-P” during George’s big third quarter.
“I did hear them,” George said in the locker room of the MVP chants. “Whatever happens at the end of the year, so be it. But right now, we have a special group this year. We are trying to win.”
Donovan agreed that George does belong in the conversation for the league’s most valuable player.
“I think Paul has played great,” Donovan said. “For me, he’s playing, it will be hard to find another guy that is playing at a level like he is now.”
As George was enjoying quite the evening, Russell Westbrook endured a frustrating shooting performance.
Westbrook finished with his 110th triple-double of his career with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Despite the woeful shooting — 4-of-18 including 0-for-5 from three — the 2016-17 NBA MVP played well.
“Big part of the game is coming out to do other things to make an impact,” Westbrook said afterwards. “That’s what we talk about before every game.”
He was right. Many will flock to the poor shooting performance, but Westbrook made plays to help keep the Thunder in control in a game they never trailed.
It was most notable when Westbrook set up Steven Adams in numerous advantageous positions against Rudy Gobert. Adams finished with 22 points and seven rebounds to neutralize the Jazz’ interior strengths. Four of Adams’ seven made shots were assisted from Westbrook.
Oklahoma City now sits atop of the Western Conference. Since October 28th, they hold the best record in the NBA at 17-4. The Thunder move to New Orleans to face the Pelicans on Wednesday.