Oklahoma City went almost a month searching for rhythm offensively, highlighted by forward Paul George’s occasional struggles to assert his place in the Thunder’s re-organized offense.
But in the midst of a four-game losing streak, George poured in 42 points — the most scored by a Thunder player this season — and Oklahoma City — a team built to win the Western Conference — finally found its first win against the Western Conference in a nine-point triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
The Thunder, playing its third game in four days Sunday, will have its chance at a second victory against the West when it hosts the Dallas Mavericks, losers of seven of their last eight games and cellar dwellers in the conference.
George, a three-time All-NBA superstar, finally seems comfortable, especially if Friday night was any indication.
“When I got here, one of the talks we had about what was best with the offense was the movement,” George said. “Coach Donovan was happy that he could utilize me in that situation of moving and getting some flow in the offense so I’m comfortable with that. It’s good for me to get going and move around a little bit so you know I felt comfortable.”
Oklahoma City (5-7) had lost its first six games against the Western Conference before Friday’s victory.
“That’s going to take time,” Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of the team meshing offensively. “It’s not just going to come in here and all of a sudden these guys are just going to gel and mesh like that. … I thought we played the right way, moved the ball and did a lot of good things offensively.”
Dallas, meanwhile, hasn’t found much rhythm through the earlier part of the season. The Mavericks (2-11) picked up their first road win this week of the season against Washington before falling 111-104 to Cleveland on Saturday.
“We had our chances, and I thought we fought at times, but we had some bad stretches,” forward Dirk Nowitzki told reporters after the loss. “We fought through it again, and we were right there in the end, but a loss is a loss in this league.”
Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. has 41 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds over the past two games as he continues to make a strong case for Rookie of the Year. LeBron James called Smith a “diamond in the rough” after the game Saturday.
Dallas has lost the second game of its last three back-to-backs this season by an average of 11.3 points.
“We had a lot of good looks that didn’t go down, and a lot of times, it turns into a make-or-miss thing,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after the loss. “Our turnovers were low, and we got hit on the boards, which hurt us. I thought we overcame a frustrating period where shots weren’t going down. … The effort was great. We’ve just got to continue with that.”
Oklahoma City center Steven Adam’s status for Sunday’s game is uncertain after missing Friday’s victory with a right calf contusion.