The Oklahoma City Thunder practice had ended in Moda Center Monday and the media was allowed into the bowl to prepare for postpractice interviews.
But while some players had retired to the sidelines to rest or to have a fun contest made up of long shots while sitting on the team’s sideline chairs, Paul George continued to put up three-point shots.
After an 8-24 shooting night that included a 4-15 game from beyond the three-point line, George wanted to get some shots up. And see them going in.
What I saw was a lot of shots going in – which is what you usually see when you watch NBA players shooting against air in practice.
Overall, the Thunder was only 5-33 from three-point range Sunday and so George was actually much better than the rest of his team, which went 1-18 from behind the stripe.
“We didn’t make shots and it cost us,” George said. “And I’ll take a lot of that, with all the good looks I had. That’s what today was for – to get better rhythm, better flow.”
George missed his team’s final regular-season game with a sore right shoulder. He said that he went four days without any shooting practice prior to the Sunday matchup.
And Monday, he said all is well with the shoulder.
“Shoulder’s good,” he said. “Pain-free.”
He’s quite obviously being very careful with it. Over the last two days he could have supplied a shave-ice stand on Waikiki with all the frozen water he’s used. He had big bags of ice on it Sunday during and after the game and then after practice was wearing bags strapped to the shoulder Monday.
There is no doubt he is critical to the Thunder’s success.
He was a legitimate candidate for the league’s MVP award until late in the season when his offensive output slipped a little, perhaps because of the shoulder. But he’s also an All-Defensive Team caliber of player and was a thorn in Portland’s side at both ends of the court during the four meetings between the teams this season.
George averaged 38 points per game vs. the Trail Blazers, hitting 45.9 percent of his three-pointers and 45.2 percent of his shots overall. He was a one-man wrecking crew.
So if he’s healthy – and he says he is – there is no reason to think he isn’t going to bring a big game against Portland Tuesday night in Game 2. And he says he’s unconcerned about any contact he might have on the defensive end further injuring the shoulder.
“Not anymore,” he said. “It’s well enough now to throw out any injury problems.
“There are going to be some shots that go in and out, shots that don’t fall, I had a good day of preparing today, so I feel good about it.”
How much did it help to get a good practice in?
“Really helped. Really helped,” he said. “I’m able to get in the gym, able to put the ball on the floor, see the ball go in, shoot the ball. I think just everybody – we got good work in today.”
Like most of the Oklahoma City contingent, George believes that his team played well Sunday, it just didn’t shoot well. No major adjustments are necessary.
“We’ve got the game plan,” he said. “We’re going to go out and deliver in Game 2.
“We feel confident and we’re in a great place.”