Paul George's Game-Winner Lifts Thunder Past Donovan Mitchell, Jazz in 2OT

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 23, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- FEBRUARY 22: Paul George #13 of the Oklahoma City Thunder shoots the ball against the Utah Jazz on February 22, 2019 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)
Zach Beeker/Getty Images

Paul George hit a game-winning floater with eight-tenths of a second remaining as the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Utah Jazz 148-147 in double overtime on Friday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City:

George finished with 45 points, nine rebounds and seven assists:

Teammate Russell Westbrook had a 43-point, 15-rebound, eight-assist night. His triple-double streak ended at an NBA-record 11 games, but Westbrook has now scored 40-plus points in back-to-back contests.

ESPN Stats & Info noted that George and Westbrook were just the fourth teammate duo to each score 40-plus points in a single game over the last 25 seasons.

Donovan Mitchell had 38 points for the 32-26 Jazz. The 38-20 Thunder have won 12 of their last 14.

                

Red-Hot Russ Is Last Thing West's Elite Want To See

There may be no greater feeling in sports video game history than watching your player in NBA Jam or NBA Hangtime catch fire after making three straight buckets, in essence turning him invincible.

That's what it felt like watching Westbrook at times Friday.

Granted, he didn't make every shot en route to his phenomenal performance, but Westbrook basically did whatever he wanted on the court, which was also more or less been the case during his triple-double streak (during which he accrued 21.9 points, 13.5 assists and 13.3 rebounds per game).

The 11th-year veteran made 15 of 29 field goals and six of 13 three-pointers before fouling out in the first overtime.

He and the rest of the starting lineup kept the team in the game on a night in which the Thunder bench scored 14 points on 5-of-26 shooting. To put that in perspective, Jazz forward Jae Crowder scored six more points off the bench than the Thunder's entire second unit.

And that's the scary part for potential Western Conference opponents, one of which may be the Jazz. If Westbrook plays like this (or close to it) during the postseason and George continues his MVP-level play, then the Thunder will still be in most games.

OKC's second unit isn't going to play like it did Friday more often than not. Markieff Morris, who averaged 11.5 points in 34 games with the Washington Wizards this season, was playing his first game with the Thunder after missing nearly two months with a neck injury and did not score.

Dennis Schroder, who averages 15.7 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting, went 3-of-16. And Nerlens Noel, who was coming off a 22-point, 13-rebound performance on Valentine's Day, had two points and no boards. The bench should come around.

What isn't a concern is George, who is no stranger to the playoffs. He led the Indiana Pacers to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014 and notably posted 22.6 points and 2.2 steals per game during the latter postseason.

The 2018-19 version of George is arguably one of the three most valuable players in the league today, and that makes Westbrook even more dangerous for the opposition to handle.

The former UCLA Bruin is no stranger to bringing his best against top postseason competition, even if his shot isn't falling.

Against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the 2015-16 playoffs, Westbrook averaged 26.7 points, 11.3 assists, 7.0 rebounds and 3.7 steals per contest. The Thunder took the Warriors to seven games and even had a 3-1 series lead but were ultimately eliminated.

Westbrook could be seeing a souped-up version of that team in the playoffs with his ex-teammate Kevin Durant and center DeMarcus Cousins now in Golden State.

But if the red-hot Westbrook shows up in the playoffs, George continues his MVP-level play and the second unit comes together, then the Thunder are going to be a tough out for any team.

                            

What's Next?

Both teams play at home Saturday. The Jazz will host the Dallas Mavericks at Vivint Smart Home Arena, and the Thunder will face the Sacramento Kings.

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