Paul George explodes for 35 as Thunder clobber Knicks
OKLAHOMA CITY— Paul George is feeling well — and found his shooting touch.
The All-Star forward scored a season-high 35 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder rout the New York Knicks 128-103 on Wednesday night.
George made 13 of 22 shots, including 5 of 11 3-pointers. He was coming off a 32-point performance on Monday night against Phoenix during which he made 11 of 19 shots and 6 of 10 threes.
“My body has just been feeling good,” he said. “I’ve kind of played myself into good shape from a body standpoint. If I can just find open looks like that, I feel comfortable taking them.”
Knicks coach David Fizdale has seen this from George before. Fizdale was an assistant coach for Miami when George was with the Indiana Pacers, one of the top roadblocks to the Heat’s championship runs.
“There was just times where we were under his shirt and he was just letting that thing go from deep,” Fizdale said. “We tried to trap him some. … I felt that pain from him when I’ve had my best teams. This guy’s a big-time player. When he gets it going like that, he’s tough.”
Steven Adams had 19 points and seven rebounds, and Dennis Schroder added 15 points and 12 assists for the Thunder. They have won nine of 10 since an 0-4 start, and improved to 4-1 since point guard Russell Westbrook was sidelined with a sprained left ankle. The Thunder matched their second-best scoring output of the season and posted their largest victory margin.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. scored 20 points, and Enes Kanter added 19 for the Knicks.
George scored 18 points in the first half and Adams added 15 to help the Thunder take a 65-49 lead. Oklahoma City shot 56.5 percent from the field before the break.
The Thunder put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Adams threaded the needle to find a cutting Patrick Patterson for a dunk, then Patterson lobbed to George for a jam that put Oklahoma City ahead 85-61. George scored 17 points in the third quarter, and the Thunder led 100-80 at the end of the period.
Fizdale said it was a learning experience for his young squad.
“We have a microcosm of how I’d like our guys to play,” Fizdale said. “Fast, athletic, disruptive.”
Knicks: Kanter, who played for the Thunder for two seasons and part of another, got a warm reception from the fans when he checked in as a reserve. … Rookie F Kevin Knox scored 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
Thunder: Shot 65.2 percent in the first quarter to take a 37-22 lead. … It was Oklahoma City’s first time wearing its City Edition uniforms, which pay homage to Oklahoma’s Native American heritage by incorporating elements of the state’s tribal nations. … Adams matched a career high with five assists. … F Jerami Grant scored 15 points. … Rookie reserve Hamidou Diallo scored 11 points.
ADAMS TALKS TRASH
Adams and Kanter were best friends in Oklahoma City. They talked trash throughout the game, with Adams even suggesting Fizdale should take Kanter out.
Adams said he said it because he respects Kanter.
“Yeah, I was trying to discourage him because he’s a bloody good player,” Adams said. “It’s best to have him off the floor for us.”
Since Westbrook’s injury, the Thunder have held opponents to 96.2 points per game. For perspective, every team in the league entered Wednesday’s action averaging at least 101.2 points per game.
SCHRODER STEPS UP
Schroder has been a star in Westbrook’s absence, averaging 19.2 points and 5.8 assists.
Knicks: At New Orleans on Friday night.
Thunder: At Phoenix on Saturday night.
Get the hottest sports news straight into your inbox
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.