LOS ANGELES • Paul George was the "bad guy" who snubbed his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers, to stay with the Oklahoma City.
And, when he turned up at the Staples Centre, shrugged off a chorus of boos and poured in 37 points to lead the Thunder to a 107-100 victory on Wednesday, he was the bad guy twice over.
George, considered one of the most likeable players in the National Basketball Association, played down the fans' reactions.
"I was prepared for it," he told reporters. "I'm the bad guy, and that's fine.
"I'm not the only guy from the LA area who didn't decide to play here.
"You can go down the whole list of guys from this beautiful city. It is what it is. The decision has been made. No ill will."
It was just as well that the forward chose the right day to be fired up, picking up the slack from his curiously misfiring fellow California native. Russell Westbrook had a triple-double, that included 16 rebounds and 10 assists, but had only 14 points.
I'm not the only guy from the LA area who didn't decide to play here. You can go down the whole list of guys from this beautiful city. It is what it is. The decision has been made. No ill will.
'' PAUL GEORGE, Oklahoma City forward, putting the situation in perspective.
George, 28, went 13 of 18 on two-pointers to compensate for going 2 of 11 from beyond the arc. He led five other teammates in double figures, with New Zealander Steven Adams adding 14 points and starter Jerami Grant had 13.
Their all-round offence proved too much for the Lakers, who were without the injured LeBron James for a fourth game.
Before that, LA traded games with the Sacramento Kings that sandwiched a loss to the LA Clippers. The Lakers are eighth in the West on 21-17 while the Thunder remain third on 24-13.
"All four games since LeBron's been out, we've had leads," said Josh Hart, who had 13 points. "We've been playing well. They've all been one-or two-possession games we could've, and a couple we should've, won."
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 25 points off the bench, while Brandon Ingram had 17.
Kyle Kuzma, second to James in points per game on 18.3, had a bruised lower back. He was unable to play in the second half and was scheduled for an MRI scan yesterday.
George's ego was not bruised despite being booed every time he touched the ball.
"I thought I handled it better tonight, just being locked in, being ready," said the player, who was similarly booed by the Pacers fans and knew what to expect.
"In Indy, I expected to be booed, but didn't know to what extent. Here, I knew."
He stated his preference to join the Lakers before leaving Indiana to join the Thunder in 2017 and again chose to stay with them weeks before his free agency started last July. His choice angered Lakers fans because of long-running speculation that he would move to LA but he did not even set up a meeting with the club.
Anthony Davis, who has been strongly linked with a move to the Lakers, should take note.
His future with the New Orleans Pelicans is the subject of renewed speculation, with James recently speaking of his enthusiasm for forging a partnership with the 25-year-old power forward.
Davis had 34 points and 26 rebounds but was unable to prevent New Orleans from slipping to a 126-121 defeat at the Brooklyn Nets.
His team fell to 17-22, after an eighth loss in 11 games, and are one place off the bottom in the West.
His haul of rebounds beat his own single-game record of 22 from January 2017, and was more than the rest of the team managed together (15).