The local fire department didn’t arrive in time. The inferno had already engulfed Vivint Smart Arena.
While the flames were metaphorical, Paul George’s game was not. George went off for 43 points on Saturday night against the Utah Jazz, with 26 points in the second half.
The Thunder won the game, which is the most important thing, 107-106. However, what Paul George has done over the last 10 games or so, and especially with the lack of offensive production from Russell Westbrook has been the most impressive.
George becomes the first player since Russell Westbrook (March 2-3, 2017), to score 40 points in back-to-back games.
“I didn’t like the way I finished in this arena the last time I was here,” George said.
George started out with only five points in the opening fame but a blacked out superstar went bananas over the final 36 minutes. His ability to attack the rim and put the Jazz on the defensive paid off. A man who struggled to end last season had something to prove. Oh boy, did he ever prove it.
Utah led 50-38 with That’s when George took over. He would score nine of the next 13 points as the Thunder equalized the Jazz. Oklahoma City trailed a majority of the first half, found themselves only trailing 61-58 at the break.
Utah, for all of their struggles this season still have really good players. They were flexing and things were going right as Ricky Rubio hit a big three, putting the Jazz up 79-70 with 5:45 left in the third.
George appeared again. His tips sizzling and simmering. It appeared out of almost no where. George scored 19 of Oklahoma City’s final 28 points in the third quarter. The smoke settled and the Thunder sat with a double-digit lead after three quarters. The Jazz were stunned. Paul George had smoking coming off the fingertips as he had 39 points after three quarters.
A 23-2 run for the Thunder, led by George who jawed as the smoke rose from his body. He talked trash to Joe Ingles. He called for the ball and split double teams like it was a hot knife through butter. When he wasn’t hurting Utah on the offensive side, he made huge defensive strides. He had multiple tips and steals. Oklahoma City’s steal of a win came off the steals of George and Co.
Utah made their run. Their defense stepped up and Westbrook struggled offensively. As the Jazz moved closer, the Thunder kept doing enough to keep Utah at arm’s length. Terrance Ferguson hit a long 2-point jumper with 6:08, which appeared to put Oklahoma City up seven.
George would continue his onslaught. A jumper to put Oklahoma City up seven. Another one to put Oklahoma City up nine. The legitimate MVP candidate did almost anything and everything to help the Thunder on Saturday night.
Westbrook, who was struggling offensively all game, had five fouls before stepping up with one of the biggest blocks of his career. Westbrook was called for a foul, but Westbrook blocked Donovan Mitchell with 1.5 seconds left, leaving Oklahoma City a chance at overtime.
Except, Mitchell missed the first one. Oklahoma City had a chance.
He made the second and Steven Adams inbounded quickly and Oklahoma City held on for the win.
While Westbrook’s offense was absent, George stepped up and the NBA’s best defensive team showed why they’re a real contender for an NBA championship.
George finished with 43 points on 15-of-25 shooting. He was 5-of-10 from deep with 14 rebounds and six assists. He also had five steals for the Thunder.
Oklahoma City will have a short turn around for a back-to-back on Sunday night. Oklahoma City will host divisional foe, the Minnesota Timberwolves (14-18) at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the ‘Peake.We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!