Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George are viewed as two of the top players in the NBA, and this year’s awards seem to show that in a big way.
The NBA on Friday announced the finalists for each of the awards that will be handed out during their awards show on June 24. Antetokounmpo and George were both listed as finalists for NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. James Harden is the other finalist for MVP and Utah’s Rudy Gobert is in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year.
The NBA MVP race had long been viewed as a two-way competition between Harden and Antetokounmpo. Giannis averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 57.8 percent shooting, all of which were career-best marks. His Milwaukee Bucks had the best record during the regular season at 60-22.
Harden averaged a league-best 36.1 points per game and helped carry the Houston Rockets to the 5th-best record in the league. His points scoring average is the 7th-highest in NBA history.
George averaged 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game, all of which tied or set a career-high mark. His candidacy took a big boost when he blew up in February and averaged 35 points per game that month. Things changed after he suffered a shoulder injury on Feb. 26 that sank his stats (his points dropped off and shooting went down by nearly four percent) and played a big role in Oklahoma City’s early playoff exit.
Harden won NBA MVP last season, while Antetokounmpo finished sixth in voting. George’s best MVP finish came in 2013-2014 when he finished ninth. Gobert is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s star players both underwent surgery after their season ended, according to a report.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski shared that Paul George underwent shoulder surgery on Tuesday. George is expected to undergo two different shoulder surgeries this offseason, one on each shoulder. He had rotator cuff surgery to repair a partially torn tendon in his right shoulder. Woj says George will also undergo surgery to repair a small tear in the labrum of his left shoulder.
The shoulder injuries will likely keep George out for at least the start of training camp.
George suffered the right shoulder injury on Feb. 26 against the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder were 38-21 at the time but dropped to 11-12 after his injury. George’s shooting percentages and scoring declined after the injury. He went through a difficult time in the playoffs while battling the injury.
In addition to George, Russell Westbrook also underwent a procedure to repair a torn ligament in his finger on his left hand. Woj reports that Westbrook played the final six weeks of the season with the injury and never went public about it. He also underwent some maintenance surgery on his right knee — the same one that caused him to miss some time at the start of the season.
The Thunder’s season ended up April 23 after a Game 5 loss to the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs.
It has not taken a lot of time for the NBA playoffs to produce some incredibly memorable and elite performances. The first round alone offered a whole lot of signature moments for the game’s leading stars, and the second round has gotten off to a running start in that regard as well.
Which players have led the charge? Here are the top ten performers in the NBA playoffs so far.
10. C.J. McCollum, Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard got the majority of the headlines for Portland, and deservedly so, but McCollum has stepped up his game in the playoffs to help his teammate along. When the Trail Blazers won, he was usually in the middle of it. In Portland’s two most lopsided wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder, McCollum had his two best scoring games of the playoffs, contributing 33 and 27 points. His 23 points per game is the 12th-best mark in the playoffs, ahead of the likes of top scoring guards Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan.
Paul George had no problem with the game-winning shot Damian Lillard hit over him to send the Portland Trail Blazers to the second round of the playoffs, as the Oklahoma City Thunder star felt he did all he could do to defend a “bad shot.” Lillard, however, views it much, much differently.
Lillard discussed his deep three-pointer during an appearance on the “Pull Up” podcast this week, and he said he has made a conscious effort to add those long-range shots to his arsenal so defenders have something else to think about. Not only is he “comfortable” with the shot, but he feels George should have defended him differently since there were only two seconds left on the clock.
“To me, it’s a solid shot. For him to say it’s a bad shot, that’s just kind of being a poor sport,” Lillard said. “It was bad defense, because I had the ball in my hand with two seconds. I wasn’t gonna drive, so maybe he should have just bodied me up.”
George obviously didn’t want to risk putting Lillard at the free throw line, and it didn’t look like there was much more he could have done to prevent the 36-foot shot. That said, calling it a “bad shot” might be a stretch, because Lillard actually converted on 8-of-12 shots from 30 feet and beyond during the series.
Paul George was not impressed with the shot selection on Damian Lillard’s series-clinching three-pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night, and Lillard seems quite amused by that.
George was the one defending Lillard when the Portland Trail Blazers star buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to send his team to the next round of the playoffs. There was nothing more George could have done, as Lillard chose to put up a shot from about 36 feet out. Following the game, George called it a “bad shot.”
"That's a bad shot. I don't care what anybody says. That's a bad shot. But, hey, he made it. That story won't be told, that it is a bad shot. You live with that." – Paul George on Damian Lillard's game winner.
Lillard made 8-of-12 shots from 30 feet or beyond in the series against OKC, so it is clearly a better shot for him than most. He also knew that the game was tied and the worst-case scenario was going to overtime, so that probably was a factor in his decision to launch such a deep attempt. When Lillard caught wind of what George said about the shot, he had a very simple response.
There is plenty of bad blood between the Thunder and Blazers, and Lillard’s reaction after hitting his series-winner was a reflection of that. Even if his shot came from half court, it got the job done. That’s something George and his OKC teammates will have to live with until next season.
The dunk was waved off for coming after the buzzer, but that didn’t stop tensions from rising. Players met at halfcourt and discussed matters, with some Portland players, like Evan Turner, apparently irritated.
George was asked about the dunk after the game and didn’t answer, saying “next question.” Damian Lillard said he “couldn’t care less” about the dunk, suggesting that the Thunder felt they needed it to pump themselves up.
Lillard weighs in on George's dunk after the horn: "I couldn't care less… if that something they need to do to make themselves feel more dominant, feel better, than so be it." #ripcitypic.twitter.com/5yNdHJpARg
Lillard was wise not to say anything and give the Thunder or media bulletin-board material, but you better believe he and the Blazers will come out with some fire in Game 4 after that and the other taunts they took.
George scored 26 points in Game 1, but did so on 8-of-24 shooting and went 4-of-15 from three-point range. His injury sounded pretty severe recently, but he denied that it was the issue behind his lackluster performance. That will be met with skepticism, but if George looks sharper in Game 2, the questions should evaporate fairly quickly.
Paul George played in Game 1 Sunday of the Oklahoma City Thunder’s playoff series with the Portland Trail Blazers, though he didn’t look quite right.
George shot just 8/24 including 4/15 on threes as the Thunder lost Game 1 104-99 to Portland. He entered the game questionable due to his shoulder, which also kept him out of the Thunder’s regular season finale.
Just how bad has George’s shoulder injury been? According to Royce Young, George said he couldn’t lift his shoulder as of a few days ago.
George says he wasn't feeling any issues physically, but more it was a rhythm issue.
Even if George denies being physically limited in the game, he seemed off, and the shoulder injury likely is the reason. This is the same issue that kept him out three games in late February/early March as well.
Paul George was unable to play in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s final game of the regular season because of a shoulder injury, and it sounds like the ailment is one that could stick with him through at least a portion of the playoffs.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Friday that George is “day to day” ahead of Sunday’s opening-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers. George later told reporters he expects to play, but he admitted he may be less than 100 percent healthy.
Paul George said the pain in his right shoulder was too much to try and play through against Milwaukee, but says “as much as I can get it 100 as possible or close to it, you can expect me out there Sunday.” pic.twitter.com/5wHNiC7CyR
George had an outstanding season in his second year with the Thunder, as he set or tied career-highs in almost every major category with 28.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.2 steals per game. It goes without saying that Oklahoma City would be in big trouble without him, but it would be a shock if George didn’t play through the shoulder issue. Whether or not it will limit him is the bigger concern for the Thunder.
Russell Westbrook is no longer the only Oklahoma City Thunder star that Patrick Beverley has beef with.
The LA Clippers defeated the Thunder on Friday night by the final of 118-110. After the game, OKC forward Paul George, who fouled out of the contest after scoring just 15 points, had some pointed criticisms of the officiating. George was later fined for his comments.
On Saturday, Beverley, the Clippers guard, called out George on Twitter for his criticisms. He linked to a highlight reel of his defense on George during the game and clowned him for “tr[ying] to blame the refs.” Beverley also tagged George in a later tweet and said that he won the battle “plain and simple.”
George also picked up a technical foul against the Clippers and was one of three Thunder players to foul out along with Westbrook and Steven Adams.
As for the 6-foot-1 Beverley, he has recently been asked to defend larger forwards with the Clippers’ lack of depth at the 3 spot thanks to injuries to Wilson Chandler and Luc Mbah a Moute plus the trade of Tobias Harris. Beverley did a similarly effective job on LeBron James in a win over the Lakers earlier in the week and had a lot to say after that game as well.