OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Paul George’s return to Oklahoma City was spoiled by a player the Thunder got back when they traded him.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander matched his career high with 32 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 118-112 on Sunday night.
George, who finished third in the MVP voting last season, was sent to the Clippers for Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari in a deal that began the restructuring of the Thunder roster. George was cheered when he was introduced during the starting lineups.
Warm welcome back to OKC for PG. pic.twitter.com/V2Oyh1y46V
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 23, 2019
“It was great,” he said. “It made me feel appreciated, just being here. I enjoyed my time here.”
George scored 18 points, but he made just 6 of 17 shots and had five turnovers. Gilgeous-Alexander made 12 of 25 field goals.
Oklahoma City trailed by 18 points in the second quarter, making it the third time in seven days the Thunder overcame a deficit that big to win. This time, the victory came against the No. 2 team in the Western Conference standings.
“That’s a really good team over there,” Thunder guard Chris Paul said. “Obviously, they’ve been in all type of different situations. It’s good. It’s really good, especially they way we were down in the first half.”
Los Angeles scoring leader Kawhi Leonard sat out because of left knee soreness.
Dennis Schroder scored 16 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and Steven Adams added 20 points and 17 rebounds to help the Thunder win their fourth straight. Oklahoma City has won nine of 12 to move above .500 for the first time this season.
“You just go on chemistry, being more comfortable with the offense, defense, you could do all that sort of stuff,” Adams said. “Figuring out playing habits — you could go on, mate.”
The Clippers led 63-57 at the half, with Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 19 points for the Thunder.
Gilgeous-Alexander’s layup tied it at 66 in the third quarter. After the Clippers seemed to regain control, the Thunder remained competitive. Paul’s 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer cut it to 89-86.
With 5:35 to play, Harrell appeared to score and draw a foul from Nerlens Noel. The basket would have given the Clippers a 100-94 lead with a free throw coming. The Thunder challenged the call and it was changed to a charge on Harrell.
The Clippers weren’t sure if the challenge worked as it was supposed to. Some time passed as Harrell waited to shoot the free throw.
“I just thought the delay was strange,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We kept asking, ‘What was the delay for? What was the delay for?’ The ref kept holding the ball.”
The Thunder took advantage. Schroder’s 3-pointer put the Thunder ahead, then Adams had a steal and a layup to make it 110-106 with 1:19 to play. After the Thunder got a stop, Schroder’s layup put the Thunder up by six.
“I think as mad as we are that we’re letting games get away early, we’re starting to figure out how to win them now,” Paul said. “We’ve got to keep it going. Even if we’re not making shots, knowing we can get stops. Really good teams in this league — that’s when they buckle down — the fourth quarter.”