Paul George scored 37 points while getting booed whenever he touched the ball by Lakers fans still angry he didn’t choose their team in free agency, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 107-100 victory over Los Angeles on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time).
Russell Westbrook had 14 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists despite 3-for-20 shooting, but his fellow Southern California native was the center of attention in the Thunder’s only visit to the Lakers this season.
George scored nine points in the fourth quarter while the Thunder rallied from a five-point deficit and easily held on for their seventh win in 10 games.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 of his 25 points in the first half for the Lakers, who dropped to 1-3 during LeBron James’ absence with a groin injury. Los Angeles has lost 6-of-9 overall after its offense managed just six field goals in the fourth quarter, along with the Lakers’ usual awful free-throw shooting.
The boos started early for George, whose perceived crime is his decision to re-sign quickly with Oklahoma City when he became a free agent last summer. George didn’t even deign to meet with the Lakers about a return to his home state after years of hopeful speculation by Lakers fans and Magic Johnson, who wanted to team James with George.
Some Lakers fans chanted “We don’t need you!” at George in the fourth quarter while he sewed up the Thunder’s win.
James watched from the Lakers’ bench in street clothes. The four-time NBA MVP has resumed shooting, but coach Luke Walton still isn’t guessing how long he will be out.
Kyle Kuzma also sat out the second half for the Lakers with a bruised lower back. The starting forward had just four points in the first half.
Westbrook recorded his 115th career triple-double despite his horrific shooting, which included a 1-of-7 showing on three-pointers. Westbrook still has 11 triple-doubles this season and eight in his last 15 games.
George also struggled with his outside shooting, going 2-of-11 from beyond the arc, but otherwise carved up the Lakers’ perimeter defense despite picking up his third foul in the first quarter and heading to the bench amid a chorus of delighted boos. When he returned in the second quarter, George immediately went to work with 13 points in nine minutes.
George and the Thunder appeared to draw motivation from the booing. George got a technical foul for slapping the backboard after slamming an alley-oop from Westbrook, who mimicked Lakers guard Lance Stephenson’s air guitar celebration moments later when George drew a foul from Stephenson while hitting a jumper.
The Lakers fell into another fourth-quarter scoring drought, going more than six minutes without a field goal while the Thunder made an 11-0 run.