Healthy George meets ex-team as Thunder visit Clippers

NBA

The Oklahoma City Thunder and the host Los Angeles Clippers meet Monday for the first time since the clubs made a blockbuster trade.

The Clippers acquired six-time All-Star Paul George from the Thunder in July for guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, forward Danilo Gallinari and a slew of draft picks. The Clippers believed then and now the high price for George was well worth it, and in two games, it’s already paid dividends.

George scored 37 points in 20 minutes Saturday as the Clippers pounded the Atlanta Hawks 150-101, a franchise record for margin of victory. George’s outstanding performance occurred two nights after he finished with 33 points in 24 minutes in his season debut in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Although he missed the Clippers’ initial 11 games rehabbing from offseason surgery on both of his shoulders, George’s sizzling start has been an eye-opener.

George has connected on 20 of 34 (58.8 percent) shots from the floor and is 9 of 16 (56.3 percent) on 3-pointers. He also has made all 21 of his free throws in two games.

“He’s taking advantage of our offense like he’s been playing the offense for five years,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He did three or four things tonight that you can’t know how to do it, in what we’re running, unless you’ve been running it.”

With George playing at a high level, the Clippers’ play could improve significantly if Kawhi Leonard returns for Monday’s game. Leonard and George have yet to make their anticipated Clippers’ debut together because Leonard missed the past two games with a left knee contusion. Rivers said it was “most likely” Leonard would play against the Thunder, according to the Times.

The status of guards Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet is unknown. Beverley missed the past two games with a sore left calf, while a high ankle sprain has kept Shamet on the bench since the Clippers’ Nov. 11 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Oklahoma City is coming off a 127-119 overtime win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers on Friday. Gallinari scored 28 points and Chris Paul added 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Thunder, who had dropped three of four before the victory.

Gilgeous-Alexander had 24 points, while Terrance Ferguson contributed 19 for Oklahoma City.

“I think we showed what we’re capable of,” Paul said. “Hopefully, we can get to a point where we don’t have to get knocked down and get back up.”

Although the Thunder have struggled early and lost all four of their road games, the former Clippers have been the club’s most valuable contributors.

Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging a team-high 20.4 points to go along with 5.5 rebounds per game on 46.2 percent shooting, including 40.0 percent on 3-pointers. Gallinari is putting up 19.0 points per game on 45.0 percent shooting from the field and 43.0 percent on 3-pointers.

Paul, another former Clipper who was acquired during the offseason from the Houston Rockets for Russell Westbrook, averages 16.3 points, 5.4 assists and four rebounds per outing.

The Thunder’s contest against the Clippers will be first of back-to-back games in Los Angeles. They face the Lakers on Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

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