Paul George has 43 and 14 as Thunder hold off Jazz
SALT LAKE CITY — Paul George had 43 points and 14 rebounds to help the Oklahoma City Thunder hold off the Utah Jazz for a 107-106 victory Saturday night.
Jerami Grant and Steven Adams each scored 15 as the Thunder (21-10) won their fourth straight game and tied Denver for the best record in the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook had eight points on 3-for-17 shooting with 12 rebounds and nine assists.
Rudy Gobert had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Jazz (16-18). Donovan Mitchell scored 20, Derrick Favors added 16 and Ricky Rubio had 12 points and 14 assists.
Three nights after scoring 43 against Sacramento, George went 15 for 25 from the field and made five 3-pointers while dishing out six assists.
George hit a jumper to extend Oklahoma City’s lead to 106-97, but the Jazz fought back on the strength of their defense. After a miss by Westbrook, Mitchell drove for a layup to make it 107-105. After Mitchell and Dennis Schroder exchanged steals, Westbrook fouled out trying to block Mitchell on a potential tying dunk with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Mitchell was slow to get up after hitting the floor hard, and his first free throw rimmed out. Mitchell launched the second free throw high, apparently attempting to generate a long rebound, but it swished through for the final margin.
Westbrook was on the bench with four fouls when Rubio made a 3-pointer to give the Jazz a 79-70 lead midway through the third quarter. George scored 18 points in the last 6:04 of the period — on everything from driving dunks to spinning 3s — to forge a 93-81 advantage after three free throws with five seconds left.
In all, the Thunder outscored the Jazz 23-2 when everything went through George. He flexed while facing the Utah crowd on the baseline, he talked trash with Joe Ingles and he demanded the ball, even while drawing double-teams at times.
George didn’t do it just by shooting. In the fourth quarter, Mitchell looked as though he was headed for a breakaway dunk and George somehow took the ball from him. A couple of plays later, the Jazz overplayed him and he deftly dropped the ball off to Adams for a dunk.
George took some time getting in a rhythm after offseason knee surgery and the Thunder lost four straight. Since then, George has become nearly unstoppable. In his last nine games, he has averaged more than 32 points on 47 percent 3-point shooting.
Thunder: Westbrook picked up his fourth foul trying to get around Gobert’s pick with 7:33 left in the third, but the Thunder were actually outscored by 12 points when he was on the court. … Despite allowing several offensive rebounds down the stretch, the Thunder outrebounded the Jazz 51-44.
Jazz: Even with a number of open looks, Utah didn’t make a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. … The Jazz hadn’t lost at home when getting more than 30 assists since Nov. 26, 2008. Utah had 35 assists.
Thunder: Host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
Jazz: Host the Portland Trail Blazers in the final Christmas Day game on Tuesday.
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.