By Connor MacKenzie @grandepadre94
WOW! How else does one describe the way this Thunder team is performing? They are firing on all cylinders heading into the All-Star break with one game left at New Orleans Thursday. Paul George and Russell Westbrook have been nothing short of sensational. The first duo to drop 20+ point triple-double in the same game since the 2007 Nets featuring Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. George scorched the Blazers, again, for a total of 47 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists on 15-26 shooting (8-13 from 3). Westbrook checked in for 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists on 5-19 shooting (10-13 FT). This Thunder team is special.
Leading 68-49 at the half, recent memories of their comeback in Houston plagued the minds of the Thunder coaching staff and fans. Portland was able to climb back into the ball game in the 3rd as they cut a once 20 point lead to 5, trailing 87-82. Playmaking by the momma’s boys in CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard was limited most of the way, even with McCollum ending with 31. The role players in Jake Layman, Rodney Hood, and Al Farouq Aminu lit up the Thunder in that crucial 3rd quarter.
In the middle of the 4th, as the lead began to swell, and only needing 5 assists in the 4th to achieve Hist0ry, Russ stepped up to a historic challenge. One pocket pass after another, Westbrook was suddenly sitting on 9 assists after a tight window dump pass to Burton. The crowd was patient with anticipation as Triple Double Mania was running wild in OKC. holding his dribble on the left wing, and one Adams down screen later, Russ sends it over to George who calmly knocks down the 3 to complete Russ’ 10th consecutive triple-double, but also adding to his 43 points.
If that was not awesome enough, with 51 seconds left, Russ comes off an Adams screen to knock down a 3 and give George HIS triple-double. The two had some of the biggest smiles one could have. Fans can truly feel the chemistry between these two all-stars, and are in awe of what they are witnessing.
However, the Thunder weathered the storm, and were able to control the clock in getting to the foul line, and amping up their defense all around. Oklahoma City kept Lillard out of a rhythm and always had a defender contesting when he rose to shoot.
George has been able to operate in every facet of the game. He gets any look he wants because he CAN! Whether is putting opponents on skates, step back jumpers, cruising to the rim, it simply does not matter what defense the opposition throws his way. Now onto Russ, he has been nothing short of sensational, amid his at times sporadic shot selection. Russ is now the leader for all time consecutive triple-doubles with 10. The narrative of players not getting along with Russ is absurd and likely dead. Those assists he racks only happen when teammates make the shots. Every player has stepped up, accepted their role, and been made better by their leader in Westbrook.
In a game with no Jerami Grant or Dennis Schroder, it was safe to wonder where supporting cast points would come from. Enter Ray Felton and Deonte Burton. Both players combined for 33 points and helped carry the lead the Thunder starters built.
The Thunder shot 48 percent from the field, 46 percent from deep and 77 percent from the charity stripe.