LOS ANGELES — Heading into Wednesday’s contest against the Los Angeles Lakers, the chatter surrounding Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George finally took center stage.
During the player introductions, George received a loud ovation that nearly rivaled that of reigning league Russell Westbrook, who grew up in the Los Angeles area and attended UCLA.
The 27-year-old got off to a slow start in the first quarter scoring just four points while picking up a pair of fouls. However, he turned it on in the second quarter scoring a period-high 13 points while knocking down an array of shots pushing the Thunder to a comfortable double-digit lead at the half.
That continued in the final two quarters of play with Oklahoma City stretching their advantage to more than 20 points with he, Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony all notching more than 20 points in the contest before the final period in what turned out to be a dominant 133-96 win.
George did see some action in the fourth quarter winding up a highly-efficient performance with a game-high 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting with three 3-pointers in only 27 minutes of action. It was an experience that George after the game voiced much pleasure in being able to play in front of his parents and five or six of his close friends in attendance at Staples Center.
“It’s great to see familiar faces outside of my parents,” George said. “It’s great to see them come out and support. It’s home and it’s great to be home and play in front of them.”
George also pointed out that he does get a fair amount of cheers on the road outside of his recent trip to Indiana where he received continuous boos throughout the contest, but the experience playing at home was an exciting situation.
“It was awesome for one,” George said. “Just being home to be in front of friends and family. Then the respect and love. Recruitment. To get that love and energy.”
Meanwhile, the Lakers didn’t exactly put together a compelling outing with their worst performance of the year getting blown by 37 points on their home floor after shooting just 41.3 percent from the field while committing 17 turnovers. However, it was something that George took with a grain of sand given that rookie point guard Lonzo Ball was out of the mix.
“You really can’t make expectations (because) one of their best players is out tonight. Lonzo is really the engine,” George said. “The way the came out and played I suspect they are used to when Lonzo is playing the point. Just playing fast, high-paced, high energy. It’s what you expect from a young team. They are going to have their bruises and their wounds.”
George also made light of the team’s struggles this season while voicing that the franchise has a roster full of promising talent.
“The best thing is that they are going to have young guys that are potentially going to be big names in this league,” George said. “They just got to keep working and fine-tuning themselves. They got good young talent.”
With there being three more times the two teams face off this season, including another one at Staples Center on the trade deadline on Feb.8, it could be the final chances that Los Angeles has to make a strong impression on the All-Star forward.
Bob Garcia IV
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