Paul George

USA Today

Plenty Of Subplots In Thunder vs. Lakers Game

The game was supposed to be just a mid-week, early January regular season game.

January 03, 2019 - 12:16 pm

Last night’s Thunder-Lakers game was supposed to be just a mid-week, early January regular season game. But it wasn’t. There were more subplots than you can imagine. It was Billy Donovan coming to Los Angeles amid reports that his name is a possibility for the UCLA job.

Can imagine the Bruins hitting the floor to that glorious Munster riff; that would bring some life back to Pauley. I mean, I could easily argue for my guy Eric Musselman getting that job. Or Bobby Hurley who is doing an amazing job at Arizona State. But there’s just something to the Munster kid returning to the college game and restoring the pride and glory to Westwood. All right, it’s mostly about being getting a chance to bump that tune any time I can. But admit it: UCLA could do a helluva lot worse than the Munster kid.  They did. With Steve Alford. A hiring that never made sense, but a firing that made perfect sense. Alas, I digress. Last night was also about Russell Westbrook coming back to LA. And, in case you forgot, it was Paul George coming to play the Lakers after stiffing the Lakers in free agency.

And if you forgot, Laker fans in attendance did not.

They were out in force. That was not a arrive late, leave early crowd. They arrived early just to boo. Loud and proud, large and in charge. And yes, losers, I’ll save you the tweet. I know what you’re thinking before you think it, so stop it. Hey Rome, the last time I heard anger like that in So Cal was when there was a line for face lifts. 

Hilarious. Not even close to original. 

And then there was the chant of “we don’t need you” directed at Paul George. 

And you can save me the emails about how normally So Cal residents are chanting “we don’t need you” at the plastic surgeon while they’re holding up a syringe of botox. 

Not even close to original. 

But you know what was pretty original? The performance that PG threw down last night. If you thought that booing George was going to distract him or throw him off his game, it did not.

He didn’t seem overly bothered by it at all. At least not as bothered as Steven Adams was. I’m not sure anyone in the league is more loyal to his teammates than Adams. If you insult one of Steve’s teammates, you’ve insulted Steve and Steve isn’t going to have any of that. 

Not that PG needed SA to fight his battles for him. PG did just fine on his own. Things did not get off to a good start. He picked up quick fouls, Laker fans were cheering each one, and it looked like it would be a long night. 

It was. For everyone who tried to stop George. 

He went for 37 points, including nine points on three of three shooting down the stretch, as OKC won 107-100. The fact that Paul George did that is not surprising. There’s a reason why the Lakers wanted him and why Laker fans are bent that he didn’t pick them.

But the fact that Paul George did everything on a night where Russell Westbrook couldn’t do anything says a lot about where the Thunder are. They won on the road on a night where Russ went 3 for 20 from the field. Yes, you heard that right. 3 for 20.

Because, for a scorer, the only thing worse than going 3 for 20 is going 3 for 15. To a scorer, that means you quit early. You didn’t believe in yourself to take those five extra shots. Russ did and Russ gifted us with an epic shooting night. 

Even more impressive than going 3 for 20 from the field? Going 3 for 20 and still having a triple-double. 14 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists. That is one funky stat line. 

But honestly, the thing that was better than PG’s numbers or Russ’s numbers, were Russ’s antics. Like when George shook Lance Stephenson with a series of moves and got him for and-one and Russ celebrated by playing the air guitar. 

And by apparently chasing that with a wink and an air kiss in Lance’s direction. 

The guy is having an epically bad shooting night and still mocking Lance Stephenson with an air guitar celebration, a wink, and a kiss. That is peak Russ. And I love it. There’s no league saltier or trollier than the NBA and Russ is on All-NBA and All-Troll. 

Just don’t ask him if he was thinking about a guitar after the game: “Was I thinking about it? I wasn’t thinking about no damn guitar. It was an and-one. Having fun, per usual.”

Per usual. I love a guy going full-blown Eddie Van Halen Eruption guitar solo and then afterwards saying, I wasn’t thinking about no damn guitar. That is Russ. Per usual. 

And that’s why this Thunder team is working right now. They have two elite players, who can pick each other up on off-nights, and can troll the other team. Paul George can go for 37 and play lockdown defense. Russell Westbrook can go 3 for 20, still have a triple-double, and break out an air guitar. If you’re Billy Donovan, why would you ever leave that? And the fact is, I don’t need him to come to Westwood to coach the Bruins, his tune travels.