(1) The Paul George MVP Campaign Continues
It’s difficult to say anything about Paul George that hasn’t already been said at this point, but after another supernova effort in another big-time game, it feels appropriate to continue saying stuff. Here’s his stat line from last night’s 120-111 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers:
- 47 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 15/26 FG, 8/13 3P, 9/11 FT, +14
- First triple-double since 2014
- Tied for second-highest scoring output of his career
- His second straight game with at least 45 points
- His 7th 36+ point effort in the last eight games
The man went bananas, plain and simple. It was clear he was in the zone after he high-fived all of Oklahoma City after the first quarter:
Over the current 12-game stretch that has seen the Thunder win 11 of those contests, the Thunder’s MVP candidate has been absolutely sublime. George has posted 36 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.7 APG, 2.4 SPG, 49.2 FG%, 49.3 3P%, 85.5 FT%, +14.5 over the 12-game run — which constitute as video game numbers, but only if you’re really good at video games. Like “my friends don’t want to play with me” good.
But what’s most incredible about PG’s run at the MVP award is how his campaign is building on itself as the season continues. When you look at his numbers broken down by month, it’s apparent he might average 50 PPG come April. I mean, I wouldn’t put it past him considering he’s morphing into a human torch.
Like I said after Saturday’s win over Houston, George ultimately winning MVP is of little consequence, but playing like the MVP has boosted the Thunder to unforeseen levels of success. That being said — he might deserve the award, folks. What James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are doing is special, but this is quickly becoming something transcendent. If the Thunder keep winning — with George leading the way on both ends — his candidacy will be difficult to overlook when it comes time to cast the votes.
(2) Triple-Double History for Russ
Ten straight triple-doubles for Russell Westbrook — another NBA record that seems shockingly ordinary for the former MVP. Here’s his stat line from the win:
- 21 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 5/19 FG, 1/6 3P, 10/13 FT, +1
- NBA record 10th straight triple-double, breaking Wilt Chamberlains record
- 23rd triple-double of the season
- OKC is 9-1 over the 10-game stretch. Westbrook has averaged 19.7 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 13.8 APG, 39.4% FG, 25.7% 3P, 66.7% FT, +4.1
While his shooting percentages aren’t where you’d like them to be, his all-around excellence is beginning to overshadow his shortcomings from the field. And with good reason — the Thunder are winning games, Westbrook is doing lots of everything, and he’s having no trouble letting PG13 do the heavy lifting when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. He deserves his credit for all of these things.
In terms of his history-making effort last night, it didn’t look like it was going to happen with one quarter to play. He had just five assists heading into the fourth — and didn’t secure his 10th until the 3:52 mark.
It was worth the wait:
While Westbrook is as divisive as ever, one thing that can’t be argued is he — alongside George — is getting positive results. There are two special seasons going down simultaneously in Oklahoma City, and neither should be taken for granted.
(3) The Bromance
Speaking of Westbrook, George, and their special seasons — how about the full-blown bromance the two men share? I’m one of the few Thunder fans that still appreciates everything Kevin Durant did in a Thunder jersey, but even I must admit that we’ve probably never seen superstar synergy like this before in OKC. It’s genuinely fun to watch.
When Westbrook knocked down his only three-pointer of the night to clinch George’s triple-double, it was pretty obvious how badly they wanted to make it happen:
And a little bit of what their twin triple-doubles meant:
- 9th pair of teammates in NBA history to have a triple-double in the same game.
- First teammates in NBA history to each record 20-point triple-doubles
- First Westbrook teammate to record a triple-double alongside him since KD in 2015
Russ spoke about their superstar relationship after the game. Not to get sentimental or anything, but are we approaching “this is cute” territory? I don’t know… but I’m feeling things.
(4) Ray & Deonte
It’s difficult to get too much love when your teammates are making history, but how about Raymond Felton and Deonte Burton, huh? Incredible relief performances on a night the Thunder were without Jerami Grant (ankle) and Dennis Schroder (personal).
Felton: Ray Ray hadn’t played in a month in a half, but was thrust into action due to Schroder’s absence. He responded with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting (3/5 3P), finishing his night as a +13 — best on the team outside of George.
Burton: Burton looked like a guy hellbent on getting his two-way contract guaranteed for the rest of the season, recording 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting and hitting 3-of-5 from long range. He’s a human spark plug that always seems to be doing stuff, and his +7 in 26 minutes was his second straight solid contribution off Billy Donovan’s bench.
For those not counting at home, Felton and Burton combined for 33 points on 13-of-19 shooting. The shorthanded Thunder don’t win that game without them.
(5) Just Keep Winning
With their fourth win in a row and 10th in their last 11 tries, the Thunder are absolutely cruising with one game to go before the All-Star break. Their efforts have them firmly in third place in the Western Conference, enjoying a four-game lead over fourth place Portland and knocking on the door of second place Denver.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Thunder are projected to finish with a record of 55-27 — which would be the best record since KD’s last season in OKC, 2015-16. FiveThirtyEight also gives the Thunder a 20 percent chance at making the Finals and a 10 percent chance of winning the entire thing. They aren’t great odds, but they’re better than any Western Conference team not named “Warriors.” Based on recent results, that feels appropriate.
Here’s where the Thunder stand statistically with 26 games to go:
- Offensive Rating: 110.3 (13th)
- Defensive Rating: 104.9 (3rd)
- Net Rating: +5.3 (5th)
- 3P%: 35.5 (11th)
- Rebounding: 47.9 (2nd)
- Assists: 23.3 (21st)
- Steals: 10.3 (1st)
- Blocks: 5.3 (12th)
Though there are still holes to plug in the roster, this team is exceeding expectations as we enter the All-Star break. If they continue rolling after the time off, anything can happen down the stretch.