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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George obtained booed final season in Indianapolis as a result of he left. He obtained booed by Lakers followers on Wednesday evening as a result of he by no means arrived.
The Oklahoma Metropolis star discovered from the primary expertise and translated it right into a efficiency that quieted Staples Heart.
George scored 37 factors whereas getting jeered every time he touched the ball by Lakers followers nonetheless offended he didn’t select their staff in free company, main the Thunder to a 107-100 victory over Los Angeles.
Russell Westbrook had 14 factors, 16 rebounds and 10 assists regardless of 3-for-20 capturing, however his fellow Southern California native was the focal point within the Thunder’s solely go to to the Lakers this season.
“I used to be ready for it,” George mentioned. “I’m the dangerous man, and that’s high-quality.”
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The boos began in pregame introductions for George, whose perceived crime is his determination to re-sign shortly with Oklahoma Metropolis when he turned a free agent final summer time regardless of years of mutual curiosity between the scoring sensation and the Lakers.
George grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant whereas rooting for each the Lakers and Clippers in Palmdale, California, on the far-flung fringe of Los Angeles suburbia. But he didn’t even deign to satisfy with the Lakers a couple of return to his house state after years of hopeful hypothesis by Lakers followers and Magic Johnson, who wished to staff LeBron James with George.
“I’m not the one man from SoCal, the LA space, that didn’t determine to play right here,” George mentioned. “You’ll be able to go down the entire listing of men from this stunning metropolis. It’s what it’s. The choice has been made. No sick will.”
A minimum of not on George’s half — however he obtained the final chuckle on his haters regardless of combating early foul hassle.
After amassing 13 factors within the second quarter and 11 extra within the third, George scored 9 factors within the fourth whereas the Thunder rallied from a five-point deficit and simply held on for his or her seventh win in 10 video games.
“I really feel like each sport is essential to him, so I don’t wish to say that he was further amped up for this sport,” Oklahoma Metropolis coach Billy Donovan mentioned. “Clearly the Lakers have nice historical past, nice custom. It’s a fantastic place to play, nice setting … however because it pertains to his private emotions, I believe he’s most likely greatest to reply that.”
When George returned to face the Pacers on Dec. 13, 2017, he managed simply 12 factors on 3-of-14 capturing amid scathing boos. He had been traded 5 months earlier after seven seasons with the Pacers, who shipped him to Oklahoma Metropolis as a substitute of the Lakers, broadly considered his most well-liked vacation spot.
“I believed I dealt with it higher tonight, given I’ve been in that state of affairs earlier than in Indy now,” George mentioned. “It was simply being locked, being prepared. In Indy, I anticipated to be booed, however I didn’t know to what extent. Right here, coming into this case, I knew what to anticipate.”
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 18 of his 25 factors within the first half for the Lakers, who dropped to 1-Three throughout James’ absence with a groin damage. Los Angeles has misplaced six of 9 after managing simply six subject objectives within the fourth quarter, together with the Lakers’ regular terrible free-throw capturing.
George struggled together with his exterior capturing, going 2 of 11 from past the arc, however in any other case carved up the Lakers’ perimeter protection. George and the Thunder appeared to attract motivation from the booing: George obtained 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 whereas hitting a jumper.
“It was enjoyable,” George mentioned. “The booing wasn’t going to throw me off my sport. I’ve been enjoying basketball for a very very long time. Somewhat booing and a bit of noise wasn’t going to make me overlook how you can play basketball.”
Some Lakers followers nonetheless chanted “We don’t want you!” at George within the fourth quarter whereas he sewed up the win.
“I believed the hassle and aggressive degree was top-notch for us,” Lakers coach Luke Walton mentioned. “We had been getting beauty. We simply weren’t making them.”
Thunder: Spanish guard Alex Abrines missed his fifth consecutive sport for private causes. … The Thunder host the Lakers on Jan. 17.
Lakers: Rajon Rondo additionally missed his fourth straight sport and watched from the bench. The veteran level guard gained’t be again from hand surgical procedure for a month. … Michael Beasley missed his 13th consecutive sport.
Westbrook recorded his 115th profession triple-double regardless of his horrific capturing, which included a 1-of-7 displaying on 3-pointers. Westbrook nonetheless has 11 triple-doubles this season and eight in his final 15 video games.
James watched from the Lakers’ bench in avenue garments. The four-time NBA MVP has resumed capturing, however Walton nonetheless isn’t guessing how lengthy he shall be out. Kyle Kuzma additionally sat out the second half for the Lakers with a bruised decrease again. He could have an MRI examination Thursday.
Thunder: At Path Blazers on Friday.
Lakers: Host Knicks on Friday.
Extra AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
The Related Press contributed to this report.
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