Paul George said he is pain-free and backed the Oklahoma City Thunder to make the adjustments they need to win Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
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Wednesday 17th April 3:30am
George appeared short of his best in the Thunder’s 104-99 Game 1 loss on Sunday evening, scoring 26 points but making just eight of his 24 shots.
On Monday, George reported he is “pain-free” in his right shoulder and said he was happy to have a full day of practice and a chance to catch a rhythm at the Moda Center on before Tuesday night’s Game 2.
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“(The shoulder) didn’t have an effect during the game, regardless of me taking hits, falling to the deck,” said George. “It really helps – I’m able to get in the gym, put the ball on the floor, see the ball go in, shoot the ball.”
George’s Game 1 shooting woes were mirrored by his team-mates. The Thunder shot just 39.8 per cent from the field including 5-of-33 from three and 4-of-12 in transition in Sunday’s loss.
In a way, those underwhelming numbers paint a rosy picture for Game 2 in the Rose City.
“We played a good game. We missed shots that we made all year. They just didn’t go down for us,” forward Paul George said. “The home team did what they were supposed to do – go out and win the first game on their floor. It’s about adjustments. So we’ll adjust and we’ll be ready for tomorrow’s game.”
“We’re going to keep shooting, no matter what,” shooting guard Terrance Ferguson added. “No matter how many shots we miss. We’re going to keep shooting the ball. I have so much confidence in this team and that’s not going away.”
Even if shots do drop more in Game 2, there are some areas for the Thunder to scrub clean.
“The ball didn’t go in the basket at the rate that any of us wanted to, but that’s part of the game. You don’t have any control of that,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “We’ve got to really concentrate and focus on the things that we have control over and the things we can do a better job in.”
Allowing 13 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points was far too many, with a bunch coming on rotational box outs where Thunder guards had to battle with the likes of Enes Kanter on the backside of the lane. Staying in front of the ball on the perimeter and busting around screens can allow Thunder bigs like Steven Adams to recover back to the middle.
“Gotta be physical. They’re good, top two or three in the league offensive rebounding. You gotta do a good job of putting a body and getting to the ball,” said Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder also committed five offensive fouls and had nine shots blocked in the game. If even a quarter of those possessions had ended up in a field goal instead, the game might have had a different result. Playing with proper spacing, avoiding plays in crowds and making wise decisions in the open floor and once in the lane can make a huge difference in Game 2.
“Some of them were in transition,” Donovan said. “We had some plays around the basket that we could have finished a little bit better when we did get to the rim. Those are some things we could be better at.”
Most importantly for the Thunder, beyond some of the x’s and o’s of the game, is the intensity, focus, stamina and toughness that they bring for all 48 minutes, starting from the opening tip.
In the playoffs, every possession counts and none can be dismissed when it comes down to the final outcome. Starting the game better than the Thunder did in Game 1 when it fell behind by 19 will be imperative when trying to steal back homecourt advantage with a tough road win.
“We got the game plan. We’re going to go out and deliver it in Game 2,” George said.
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