Leonard spoils DeRozan’s return, George goes off for Thunder
By Agence France-Presse
Paul George capped a 45-point performance with a last second game-winning basket in double overtime to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 148-147 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.
George drove between two defenders and floated in the clutch shot with 0.8 seconds left. Utah’s Kyle Korver launched a desperate shot on the final possession of the game but it sailed long as the horn sounded.
“I knew I just had to step over and put it up. I tried to play the two on one,” said George.
Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook finished 43 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. But Westbrook also fouled out with 69 seconds left in the first overtime, ending his streak of 11 consecutive games with a triple-double.
The game went to overtime after the Thunder’s Jerami Grant completed a tying three-point play, then blocked Utah player Donovan Mitchell’s shot at the other end. Grant had 18 points.
In the first overtime, Utah’s Rudy Gobert tipped in the tying basket with 33.7 seconds left to make it 139-139 and that is the way it stayed until the buzzer sounded.
Westbrook and George became the first pair of teammates to each scored 40 points in a game since Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in 2017.
Elsewhere, Kawhi Leonard got booed in his return to San Antonio. It was a much different story for DeMar DeRozan in Toronto.
Raptors star Leonard scored a game-high 25 points and stole the ball from San Antonio’s DeRozan at mid-court for the go-ahead dunk as the Toronto Raptors held on to beat the San Antonio Spurs 120-117.
“Tonight was like a playoff game,” Leonard said. “We just had to grind away right to the end.”
Leonard scored the final four points for the Raptors, including a steal and a dunk off DeRozan with 15 seconds to go with the game on the line.
DeRozan tried to carry the ball up court but slipped while being pressured, and Leonard snatched the ball for the uncontested dunk to give the Raptors a one-point lead, 118-117. He then sank two free throws to seal it.
It all added up to a night of mixed emotions, but for DeRozan the ending could have been better.
“I knew they were going to be aggressive, trying to make a play on the ball and then foul,” DeRozan said. “I’ve just got to be more aware.”
This was his first trip back to Toronto since the trade in the off season between the two teams that saw the two Los Angeles area products being swapped for each other.
The sold-out crowd of 20,060 at the Scotiabank Arena gave DeRozan two standing ovations. The first took place during team introductions and the second came halfway through the first quarter when the Raptors honoured him with a video tribute during a stoppage in play.
– Standing ovation –
“DeMar did a great job here with his nine-year run,” said Leonard. “He was leading all the stats with Raptors all the time and the fans came out and showed him love.”
DeRozan is the Raptors’ all-time leader in points (13,296), field goals (4,716), free throws (3,539), games (675) and wins (353).
“To come back here and get a reception like that is definitely humbling, beyond gratifying,” DeRozan said. “I appreciate it.”
Leonard could only fantasize about getting the same warm welcome when the teams met January 3 in San Antonio for the first time since the trade.
Leonard scored 21 points in a 125-107 San Antonio win and was booed by the Spurs fans. DeRozan recorded his first career triple double in that one with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
While Leonard asked for a trade out of San Antonio, DeRozan was stunned by the deal. After re-signing with the Raptors in 2016 he said he wanted to be a Raptor for life.