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Thunder vs Trail Blazers, final score: Paul George powers OKC to home win, 120-111

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Paul George, combined with a surprising bench effort, led the way to a critical home win over OKC’s division rivals.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

box score | Blazers Edge

The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Portland Trail Blazers at home, 120-111, for OKC’s 4th win in a row. Powered behind another dominant performance by Paul George, OKC led nearly throughout behind timely shooting and a stout defense over a tired Blazers team playing on the 2nd night of a back-to-back.

George continued his assault on the league by recording his own triple-double, scoring 47 points on 15-26 shooting, including 8-13 from three, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to go with 2 steals. His counterpart Russell Westbrook, again struggling from the floor, still grabbed his 10th straight triple-double (23rd on the season) with 21 points (10-13 from the FT line), 14 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Most important, Westbrook and George executed well in the 4th quarter after watching their 19 point halftime lead dwindle to 5 heading into the 4th. George responded with 18 points in the 4th on 6-10 shooting (3-6 from three), while Westbrook, sitting on only 5 assists heading into the final frame, handed out 6 assists in the final 7 minutes to keep Portland from threatening. His pass to George off a PnR set that led to PG’s final three of the game got Russ his 10th assist on the night.

Russ’ 10th triple-double in a row puts him in rarified air, which we should never take for granted. If you pass Wilt...on anything...you’ve had a special career.

The All-Star duo’s performance was an essential component to the night’s win, as the Thunder found themselves facing some disadvantages. Jerami Grant and Dennis Schroder were marked as out for the night (mere days after OKC released Alex Abrines), and while Grant’s replacement in the starting lineup Patrick Patterson defended well, he failed to make a shot on the night. Meanwhile, Terrance Ferguson was plagued by fouls most of the game, and Steven Adams was running with a limp trying to defend the massive Jusuf Nurkic.

What spelled the difference, aside from PG’s shooting display, was the Thunder bench players stepped up in a major way. Ray Felton, who has not played since December, scored 15 points on 6-7 shooting in the 1st half, while Deonte Burton, called up from the Blue, scored a career-high 18 on 7-9 shooting, including 3-5 from three. Burton, who has a stout physique reminiscent of James Harden, did a fantastic job in the 2nd half finishing plays at the rim against contact, a welcome display as OKC’s offense struggled at times.

And a special shout-out to Fats. We’ve had our fun with him over the past 2 years, and he has at times been the brunt of critique, but I’m reminded of an interview he gave last week. At age 34, he knows his time in the league is coming to an end. He doesn’t like it, and he doesn’t have to. This is what he had to say:

“I’d be lying to you if I said it’s not tough,” Felton told The Athletic this week. “It’s tough. It’s heartbreaking at points. But at the same time, I know my role.”

I think this sentiment resonates with me because I know what it feels like to move into the next phase of life, the choices you make, and what you know you will eventually have to leave behind. Ray knows this, and he knows even as much as he wants to play — and can still bring it in short spurts, as we’ve seen tonight — his value to the team is not what he wants most. But he subjects his desires to the good of the team anyway, and I find that extremely and honorably noble.

The win secures OKC’s regular season series against the Blazers, as it is the 3rd win in a row over Portland and creates a 4 game cushion over the current 4th seed. With only one game to go before All-Star weekend, the Thunder continue to find their stride for long stretches, while Westbrook moves the chains and George goes NBA Jam on the league.

Many moons ago, I described OKC’s one-two dynamic this way — Westbrook is the war-hammer, and Kevin Durant was the spear. This has always been the best way for the Thunder to operate with Russ’ unique skillset; but it is now PG13, making mince meat of defenses, that blots out the sun.

Next game: vs New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday, Feb. 14th at 7PM CST