The unofficial mid-season/two-thirds season breaking point is now behind us, and before we delve back into the daily stress experiment that is the 2017-18 Thunder, we can pause to reflect on what went down. And if you think you’re going to get some massive, in-depth meta-analysis from me on this, ahem, it’s the All-Star game.
First up, Paul George was an addition to this year’s 3-point shootout. Did he deserve it? Ah, yeah. He’s shooting 43% on the season and 47% in the month of February on almost 10 attempts per game. That said, the shootout rewards a specific kind of shooter — namely, the one who has compact and efficient shooting mechanics, because by the end of the round, fatigue can set in and mechanics break down. That’s why guys like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are always favorites, and why Devin Booker ultimately won.
Here’s PG’s effort, which earned him dead last:
Not the best 1st #JBL3PT run for @Yg_Trece... pic.twitter.com/2iyJXlcbL0— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 18, 2018
Which of course cued the memes, first from his teammate Russell Westbrook:
Westbrook was too happy Paul George was throwing up bricks at those LA rims pic.twitter.com/HFqYmVmgyS— Thomas Duffy (@TJDhoops) February 18, 2018
"Ballgame" - Paul George pic.twitter.com/qYXp6Rrv1A— Kofmonger (I haven't seen the movie yet) (@KofieYeboah) February 18, 2018
But that didn’t mean PG missed out on an opportunity to show some love and speak resonant words about society today.
Paying tribute to his teammate @carmeloanthony, #PaulGeorge visits the #NBAKicks stage! pic.twitter.com/BP2EApiECA— NBA (@NBA) February 18, 2018
Paul George on athletes speaking about social activism: “We’re father’s. We’re sons. We’re brothers...For someone to say, ‘Stick to dribbling a basketball,’ that’s pretty ignorant. That just goes to show you where we are at as a country right now.” pic.twitter.com/BqkQn6hLuM— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) February 17, 2018
And of course much of the conversation surrounded George’s destination next year, and perhaps it is just me, but Westbrook has been far more vocal and enthusiastic about promoting his teammate and is desire to see him return this time around:
Westbrook shuts down L.A. fans chanting for Paul George pic.twitter.com/TPtSZL19zo— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) February 17, 2018
As far as how the actual game event went, there is a large consensus in the rearranged format for the game and its outcome, and that is this: Fergie is awful. So many jokes, but the obvious one to me is that someone told her to commemorate Marvin Gaye’s rendition (largely considered the best ever), but she just assumed they meant to sing it like this other Gaye classic.
For the game itself, with Russell Westbrook starting along side LeBron James and some other guys, the first quarter “feeling it out” segment was truly special, in the “how to lance a boil” kind of special. I think the challenge was that players had grown accustomed to taking lots of threes, throwing down dunks, and ignoring pretty much everything else. But this time around, suddenly players had a premonition that defense might be something to try, and the combination was less than ideal.
That said, as the game went on, players actually settled into roles. Despite Team Lebron featuring the more-illustrious lineup, Team Steph headed into the 4th quarter with a lead. That’s when eventual game MVP LeBron (like there would be any question of this outcome) took control, finishing the 4th with 10 points on 4-5 shooting, Paul George nailed two threes, redeeming himself from the night before, and Westbrook scored 8 on 3-4 shooting, including multiple key plays to deliver the 148-145 win. In LeBron’s words:
LeBron James on his go-ahead basket, said the plan was to get the ball in Russell Westbrook's hands: "Russ being so dynamic in his ability to break down defenses, we wanted to get it to him." pic.twitter.com/rkUKeS7DRg— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) February 19, 2018
Here is the play that resulted:
Crazy passing from Westbrook and Kyrie to find LeBron for the game-winner @MickstapeShow pic.twitter.com/AIUAL2nELX— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) February 19, 2018
Here are Westbrook’s comments in the aftermath.
“We wanted to win...”#RussellWestbrook on TNT after the W. Talking defense. #WhyNot? pic.twitter.com/m7N0C5zOnv— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) February 19, 2018
Last year’s game featured a somewhat uneasy alliance between Westbrook and #35, as you may recall. This year was a bit different. And I postulated somewhere that LeBron drafting both guys may have been the necessary salve because he’s the only one superior to both who can demand camaraderie. And while the relationship still likely has a ways to go, what we saw is that reconciliation is always available and restoration never too far away. And not to paint a bullseye too drastically, but this comment speaks volumes:
I asked Kevin Durant about his relationship with Russell Westbrook, he gave a very insightful answer #NBAAllStar pic.twitter.com/MRLIH5c3xe— Nikki Kay (@NikkiKayKFOR) February 17, 2018
And some love:
KD asked about the best dunk he's seen, starts talking about a "6-3 guy" he used to be teammates with pic.twitter.com/XqcsZ7VbKl— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) February 17, 2018
This is the lob Durant was talking about in that answer. One of the best live dunks I’ve certainly ever seen. https://t.co/l6A8KwgFuN— Royce Young (@royceyoung) February 17, 2018
Do these kinds of words matter? You be the judge.
Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on good terms pic.twitter.com/H9bjXSYwnw— BallersHype (@BallersHype) February 19, 2018
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook back together. #ThunderBuddies pic.twitter.com/1yofw6zf82— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) February 19, 2018
Perhaps things will never be the same, but they don’t need to be. But it’s nice to be able to move forward and leave the bitterness behind. Good job, Kevin.