Fresh out of the NBA all-star break the fans of the Chesapeake Energy Arena welcomed Markieff Morris to the Thunder organization as they were slated for a markee matchup against their newfound rivals, the Utah Jazz.
This game was expected to be a nice, refreshing and exciting return to NBA basketball on national television. Morris playing his first game in a Thunder uniform was supposed to be the story of this game but Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Donovan Mitchell had something else planned for this game.
A highly-competitive game ended after two overtimes, where the Thunder managed to muscle their way to a 148-147 victory in the face of adversity, adding another landmark victory to their special season.
Oklahoma City overcoming adversity was them pulling out a win with both Westbrook and Terrance Ferguson on the bench fouled out. Ferguson was disqualified first, at the 2:43 mark of the first overtime. This presented a problem as he was Mitchell’s primary defender. Mitchell scored 38 points but Ferguson did a praiseworthy job defending him, making Utah’s star work for all 35 shot attempts.
Paul George’s game-winner:
Ferguson leaving the game at an extremely pivotal moment meant one less defender for the Thunder down the stretch. Then one minute and 30 seconds later, Westbrook got called for a suspect charge, thus disqualifying him for the remainder of the game as well.
At this point, the atmosphere around the Peake felt as if the Thunder were just going to lose a hard-fought game. It felt like one of those games they’d forget about as they move on to the second half of their home back-to-back against the Sacramento Kings. It didn’t work out that way.
Thunder reserve Abdel Nader had a few noteworthy defensive plays down the stretch, including stealing the ball from Mitchell and hitting a crucial corner three.
The story of the game is the way Paul George played down the stretch. From his elite defense to him scoring 45 points on 17-of-31 shooting, including nine rebounds and seven assists. George continues to move the MVP needle more in his favor with these games where he’s completely dominating both ends of the floor. On defense when he’s not racking up his season average of 2.3 steals per game he’s making the defensive plays for his teammates to do so, plus altering and blocking shots, along with being one of the league’s best on-ball defenders.
The Thunder have carried their momentum from before the all-star break into the final stretch of the season or that’s what it appeared like on Friday night. George and Westbrook combined for 88 points on 32-of-60 shooting. The Thunder as a team shot 46.6 percent for the game and 40.6 percent from three-point range.
The Thunder are getting better with time and with the playoffs about a month and a half away, there’s still plenty of room for them to continue to improve. Hopefully, this team isn’t reaching its peak too early.