Paul George was booed during pregame introductions and each time he touched the ball but the Southern California native and Oklahoma City Thunder got the last laugh in a 107-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
As both teams struggled from the field early, the Lakers missed their first four shots and seven 3-pointers. Compounding matters for Oklahoma City was that George picked up three fouls in the first quarter, much to the delight of the Staples Center crowd and Lakers associate head coach Brian Shaw.
George did find a rhythm late in the second quarter, with his string of baskets helping propel the Thunder to a lead. One of them was a slam dunk on an alley-oop from Russell Westbrook, which George punctuated by slapping the backboard, drawing a technical foul.
The Lakers responded with an 8-0 run behind tempo and swift passes. They trailed 59-57 at halftime, and were forced to finish the game even more shorthanded as Kyle Kuzma did not return after sustaining a lower back contusion.
Russell Westbrook received a loud ovation. Paul George, not so much. pic.twitter.com/tc67dSLIKS
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) January 3, 2019
Brandon Ingram shouldered more of a load in the third quarter, with JaVale McGee and Ivica Zubac providing a boost on offense. So too did Svi Mykhailiuk as he made two consecutive baskets to give the Lakers an 80-76 lead.
They remained ahead when the fourth quarter began but had trouble generating offense or stopping Abdel Nader. After going coast-to-coast for a layup, Nader drained a 3-pointer to give the Thunder an 86-85 lead with just over 9 minutes remaining.
That was part of an 11-0 run by the Thunder bench, ultimately giving them a six-point lead before Westbrook checked back in. While the Lakers managed to keep the game close, struggles to defensive rebound and at the free throw line proved costly.
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