LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Another night without Russell Westbrook on the floor provided another opportunity for Paul George to carry the Oklahoma City Thunder (0-2). Unfortunately, another night led to another loss.
The Thunder ended their game against the Los Angeles Clippers (1-1) the same way they began; terribly.
After a red-hot Clippers start which saw them shoot 7-for-8 from the field and jump to a 16-0 lead, Oklahoma City’s bench stormed back.
Alex Abrines and Nerlens Noel went to work. The pair combined for 18 points in the first half along with some great defensive plays. Noel in particular shined by extending possessions and forcing steals. All this while George and Dennis Schröder combined to shoot 2-for-13 in the first quarter.
“We did a better job guarding the ball,” Billy Donovan said after the game. “We did a better job contesting three-point shots.”
From the 3:23 mark in the first quarter until late in the second, Oklahoma City outscored Los Angeles 30-18. The Thunder trailed 48-46 at half with the bench outscoring the starters 25-21.
The first half was much the same of the first half in Oakland on Tuesday for George. The All-Star shot 1-for-8, including 0-for-5 from three, against the Warriors in the first half before exploding in the third. Tonight saw a similar performance with a 2-for-11 output.
“We missed some good looks in the midrange,” George said. “Me and Schröder are really good shooting in that area.”
The third quarter saw the Thunder finally take the lead and appear to figure out the Clippers. After being down 16 in the game, Oklahoma City led by as much as nine in the third quarter. George’s distribution on offense and some incredible defense led to a strong second-consecutive third quarter.
“At times our ball movement in the second and third quarter was really, really good,” Donovan said.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
Donovan felt the offense let the defense down. All the work done by the bench, Steven Adams — who finished with a monster 17 points and 18 rebounds (six offensive) game — and George defensively, resulted in nothing with the collapse in the fourth quarter.
“Our offense did not help our defense at all tonight,” Donovan added. “We did nothing to help our defense. We were way too easy to guard. The ball was never moved.”
After a Lou Williams (17 points) three broke the 90-90 tie at the 6:29 mark in the fourth, the Clippers never looked back.
As the fourth drew to a close, George and Schröder were unable to find rhythm. The duo combined to shoot 9-of-42 from the field. Los Angeles outscored Oklahoma City 37-15 in the final quarter. Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallanari each finished with 26 points for LA.
Ultimately George fouled out with 1:33 to go in the game.
For whatever reason, George’s shot has been off. It has been a major contributor in the Thunder starting the season 0-2. According to George, there is little cause for concern despite the disappointing start.
“It’s no panic,” George said after the game. “We’ve got one of the best players coming back to our team at some point. But I take a lot pressure on that. I’ve still got to get this group ready to go.”
The Thunder are back in action Sunday night in Oklahoma City as they take on the Sacramento Kings (0-2).