Basketball

Thunder beat Pacers, returning Irving spurs Celtics

Friday, December 15, 2017

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LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Russell Westbrook recorded his ninth triple double of the season and Paul George made a successful return to Indiana as the Oklahoma City Thunder edged the Pacers 100-95 on Wednesday night.

The four-time all-star George was booed loudly whenever he touched the ball in his first return to the Bankers Life Fieldhouse arena since being traded five months ago.

But George's return went off without a hitch as he scored 12 points and backed up Westbrook's 10-point, 17- rebound and 12-assist performance in front of the hostile crowd of 17,900.

George was traded to Oklahoma City in exchange for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis after he told the Pacers he didn't plan to re-sign with the club at the end of this NBA season.

“He had incredible poise,” Thunder Coach Billy Donovan said of George. “He didn't shoot well, but I thought his defence was critical.”

George knew the environment would be a physical and mental test.

“I'm glad the circus is over with and now everybody can move on,” George said. “I'm not sure what they (fans) wanted me to be, a circus act or some kind of show.

“I played my hardest. I thought I took what the city is about and that's being blue collar.”

Steven Adams scored 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Thunder.

The Thunder improved to 13-14 on the season as they registered their first two-game season sweep of Indiana since 2012-13 and snapped the Pacers' four-game winning streak.

Oladipo led the Pacers with 19 points, but had a rough shooting night, going nine of 26 from the floor.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 15 for the Pacers and Thaddeus Young had 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals.

Elsewhere, Kyrie Irving returned from a one-game injury absence and scored 33 points as the Boston Celtics shot a season-high 59.5 per cent from the floor en route to a 124-118 win over Denver.

“That was the only way we were going to win tonight, the way we were guarding and rebounding,” said coach Brad Stevens of the strong shooting performance.

Jaylen Brown added 26 points and Aron Baynes had 17 as the Celtics overcame a career-high 36 points by Nuggets guard Gary Harris and 28 by Jamal Murray.

Denver, finishing a six-game road trip, were missing three key players with injuries Paul Millsap (wrist), Nikola Jokic (ankle) and Will Barton (back).

In New Orleans, DeMarcus Cousins nailed a clutch three-pointer from the left side with 22 seconds remaining as the New Orleans Pelicans powered past the Milwaukee Bucks 115-108.

Cousins scored a team-high 26 points and Anthony Davis chipped in 25.

The Pelicans trailed 94-87 early in the fourth quarter, but outscored the Bucks 28-14 in the final 10 minutes.

Cousins added 13 boards and Davis tallied 10 rebounds. E'Twaun Moore had 21 points for New Orleans.

Greek forward Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with a game-high 32 points.

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