LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Paul George shrugged off a chorus of boos to score 37 points and lead Oklahoma City Thunder to a 107-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center on Wednesday.
George angered Lakers fans last year after ignoring the franchise in favor of a deal with Oklahoma City, a snub which came after long-running speculation he would move to Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, the Lakers fans unloaded on George at every opportunity, booing and whistling throughout whenever the 28-year-old touched the ball.
George, however, wound up having the last laugh, leading the scoring as OKC’s all-round offense proved too much for the Lakers, who were once again without the injured LeBron James.
George was one of six Thunder players to make double figures, with Russell Westbrook adding 14 points in a triple double display which also included 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
New Zealander Steven Adams also had 14 points while starter Jerami Grant had 13 points.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 25 points for the Lakers off the bench, while Brandon Ingram finished with 17 points.
Oklahoma City improved to 24-13 with the win to remain third in the Western Conference, with the Lakers in eighth spot at 21-17.
– Level 42 for Embiid –
In Phoenix, Cameroon international Joel Embiid led the way for the Philadelphia 76ers with a 42-point display in a high-scoring 132-127 victory over the Suns.
Embiid exploded for 30 points in the first half alone before eventually finishing with 18 rebounds and two assists.
Ben Simmons had 29 points while J.J. Redick weighed in with 27 points as the Sixers were made to work hard for the win down the stretch after a determined Phoenix fightback.
Devin Booker led the Suns scoring with 37 points but Phoenix remain firmly rooted to the foot of the Western Conference with a 9-30 record.
Elsewhere Wednesday, Anthony Davis finished with 34 points and 26 rebounds but was unable to prevent New Orleans slipping to a 126-121 defeat against the Brooklyn Nets.
Davis, who missed the Pelicans’ final game of 2018 after falling ill on Monday, produced a dazzling display to launch the New Year, but ultimately could not drag New Orleans over the line at the Barclays Center.
The Pelicans fell to 17-22 after the defeat and are one place off the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
– ‘Numbers don’t matter’ –
Davis’s haul of rebounds beat his own previous single-game record of 22 from January 2017, and was more than the rest of the Pelicans managed together (15).
Davis brushed off discussion about his personal display following the defeat.
“It doesn’t matter about numbers. I was only worried about the win. We didn’t get that tonight, so my numbers don’t matter. We’ve got to do a better job on the defensive end,” he said.
The loss was New Orleans’ eighth defeat in 11 games and comes as Davis’s future with the franchise is the subject of renewed speculation.
The 25-year-old power forward has been strongly linked with a move to the Los Angeles Lakers, where LeBron James has recently spoken of his enthusiasm for forging a partnership with the Pelicans ace.
Elsewhere Wednesday, Gordon Hayward delivered a season-high 35-point haul from the bench to give the Boston Celtics a 115-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the TD Garden.
Hayward, who returned to fitness this season after missing most of the 2017-2018 campaign following a horrific leg injury, tormented Minnesota with a superb display of shooting in the second quarter and down the stretch to lead Boston to victory.
“He got back in the gym this morning, you could tell he was going to play very well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Hayward. “He’s feeling better day by day, and hasn’t had any setbacks recently which is positive.”
The Celtics, who were once again without Kyrie Irving (eye injury), also had big contributions from Terry Rozier, who finished with 16 points, Al Horford (15) and Marcus Morris (12).
© Agence France-Presse