George hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left, and the Thunder rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Rockets 112-111 on Tuesday night.
It was a physical matchup between George and Tucker, who at one point had to be separated during an altercation. George scored a hard-earned 27 points on 9-for-25 shooting. He savored the fact that he got his last bucket after Tucker failed to close out successfully on him in the corner.
“All I needed was a little space, and it’s not a guy that’s got great lift, so I was able to shoot right over him,” George said.
Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his 33rd triple-double of the season.
The Thunder won their fourth straight and moved into sixth place in the Western Conference standings with one game remaining. The Thunder play at Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Bucks are expected to sit their key players. The Thunder said that wouldn’t matter.
“All in,” George said. “Last game of the year. Playing well. Picked up another big win tonight.”
James Harden scored 39 points and Chris Paul added 24 for the Rockets, who slipped into the third spot in the conference standings in their regular-season finale after having their six-game win streak snapped.
“Not the way we wanted to end it, of course, but I think we are in a pretty good space,” Harden said. “We have been playing well. Defensively, we have been getting after it. Offensively, we have been knocking down shots. We are excited. We are ready.”
Harden scored 26 points in the first half to help the Rockets take a 60-51 lead.
The Rockets led 93-80 at the end of the third quarter. Oklahoma City rallied, and it hit another level after Westbrook returned from a rest in the fourth. His 3-pointer finally put the Thunder ahead 100-99.
Houston regained the lead, but Westbrook hit a 3-pointer with 20.2 seconds left to cut the Rockets’ lead to a point. Harden made two free throws at the other end to make it a three-point game. Westbrook dunked with 9.7 seconds left to trim Houston’s lead to 110-109.
Harden made the first and missed the second free throw at the other end with 9.4 seconds left to set up George’s shot. Houston had one more chance after George’s 3-pointer, but Harden missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
It was the kind of energy and drama that often comes with postseason basketball.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” George said. “It was crazy. It had a playoff kind of feel tonight. That was a good preview for the Western Conference.”
Harden was ready to move on after the game.
“This one is over, and now we prepare for something big,” he said.