About Last Night: Thunder stars shine in comeback

Much like a pair of superheroes teaming up to wreak havoc on their foes, Russell Westbrook and Paul George proved unstoppable in the face of a seemingly insurmountable deficit Wednesday at Barclays Center. 

Just how bleak was the Thunder’s situation against the Nets? 

Down 23 midway through the third quarter and as many as 20 in the fourth, they were given less than a 1 percent chance of rallying for victory by ESPN’s Game Probability model. 

But much like Brooklyn’s defense, those odds meant nothing to the Thunder — and more specifically, Westbrook and George. 

Westbrook continued his march up the career triple-double chart, passing Jason Kidd for third with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 17 assists. It was triple-double No. 108 for Westbrook, marking only the 34th time in NBA history that a player has totaled at least 20, 15 and 15 in those categories.

George’s 47 points and 15 rebounds weren’t as rare, but might have been even more impressive. More than half his scoring output (25) came over the final 7:11, including the go-ahead 3-pointer — off a Westbrook assist, naturally — with 3.1 seconds left.

Per ESPN Stats, George had previously been 0-for-14 in his career on go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds. But having watched George torch his team throughout the fourth, Nets reserve Jared Dudley knew it was down before it left his hand. 

Westbrook then essentially killed the Nets’ final possession with a deflection that left them just 0.1 second to attempt the last shot, completing a remarkable 114-112 triumph for the Thunder. It was a fitting piece of dirty work by Westbrook, who took only two shots while dishing out five assists in the fourth as he gave George plenty of space to sizzle.  

Driven by their two superstars, the Thunder outscored the Nets 39-19 in the final period to register the largest comeback since the team moved to Oklahoma City in 2009. Of more immediate concern, it was also their 16th win in 19 outings following an 0-4 start. 

“This was a special night,” said George, who missed his career scoring high by one point. “We came together when our backs were against the wall and we showed who we are.”

Paul George erupted for 47 points, including 25 in the fourth to outscore the Nets by himself.

Night of greatness

OKC’s dynamic duo highlighted a score of monster performances: 

* LeBron James scored 20 of his 42 points in the fourth, leading the Lakers past the Spurs 121-113. 

* Stephen Curry lit up the Cavaliers for 42 points, including 25 in the first half. 

* Jimmy Butler outscored Kawhi Leonard 38-36, but Leonard got the last laugh with a 113-102 victory

* Bradley Beal picked up the slack for the absent John Wall with 36 points and nine assists against the Hawks. 

* Karl-Anthony Towns overpowered the Hornets for 35 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks. 

And that’s just scraping the surface. Check out NBA.com/stats for a complete rundown on Wednesday’s top performers. 

End of an era

Four straight Finals matchups etched the Warriors-Cavaliers rivalry among the best in NBA history. 

”It was historical,” said Curry, whose team claimed three of those four Finals battles, including the final two. ”I’ll definitely sit back on the couch in 10 or 12 years when it’s all over and think about what it was like to play (in Cleveland), and how high the stakes were every time we came into this building.”

But with LeBron James having departed for L.A. over the offseason, there were no stakes to speak of as the Warriors visited Quicken Loans Arena outside another date on the 82-game schedule.

And the defending champions played like it during the first half, trailing by six at the break despite Stephen Curry’s 25 points. 

But as they’re prone to do, the Warriors awoke with devastating results. Curry added 17 more in the second, and Kevin Durant hit a flurry of 3s en route to 25 points for the game as the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by 30 over the final 24 minutes.

Despite the impressive finish, the Warriors couldn’t help but look back at the way things were.  

”It’s not a rivalry, it’s another game,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said wistfully. ”Part of me is a little nostalgic for that.”

Stephen Curry leads the Warriors to victory with 42 points.

Welcome back

Plagued by injuries in recent years and jobless after being waived by the Knicks in October, former All-Star Joakim Noah wasn’t sure if he would ever play in the NBA again. 

That moment finally came with the Grizzlies in their 96-86 win over the Clippers, more than 11 months after his most recent outing in January. Noah scored only four points in 13 minutes, a far cry from his peak. But at this point, after seeing his career flash before his eyes, he’s just glad to be back on the court in any capacity he can. 

“I’m really happy,” an emotional Noah said. “I don’t expect anything anymore. I’ve been in this league for a while now. Sometimes you take it for granted because there are so many games. Then you (can’t play), it just feels good to be here in a locker room after a win, and feel that energy.”

 

Quote of the Night

“Have you watched LeBron play before?” — Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, asked what makes James so difficult to guard.

Living it up

No one can accuse Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry of not enjoying his job. 

Article credit: https://www.nba.com/article/2018/12/05/about-last-night-12-5-2018/?rss=true

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